Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Our 2019 Red Cross Military Hero is a Vietnam veteran now helping other vets with one of life's basics: food.
You could say Bill McCann is surrounded by veterans. When he is at home he helps his 95 year old father-in-law who fought in World War II pass time with a puzzle.
But when McCann's out and about he's most likely volunteering with his non profit VITTLES FOR VETS.
"What we do is we issue $50.00 food gift cards to veterans who qualify for the program and to qualify you must be other than dishonorably discharged, you must be alcohol - and drug-free, and you must be living at or below federal guidelines for poverty," McCann, the RED CROSS MILITARY HERO AWARD honoree, said.
Giving out these gift cards to veterans stemmed from a conversation with a homeless vet back in 2014. "I took him to lunch in the cafeteria at the VA, gave him a $50.00 gift card to a supermarket and this big guy grabbed my hand and started crying and that was the very second that VITTLES FOR VETS was born," McCann said. Vittles hands out weekly grocery gift cards to those in the program. McCann does keep an eye on what is bought. The veteran is required to mail back the grocery receipt back to ensure the card isn't used for alcohol, tobacco or junk foods.
Besides meeting physical needs, McCann says the family of a veteran who died told him the program was so much more. "When I went to the wake and the funeral, his brother and sister came up to me at separate times and told me that Roger was in a deep state of depression and once he was accepted into the VITTLES FOR VETS program, emotionally he started to get better. He was just happy to be part of it and I never realized the emotional value Vittles has as well as the nutritional value."
Just like a puzzle, funding the non-profit takes patience and putting the pieces together one at a time. McCann hopes to grow this year to give 70 veterans gift cards on a weekly basis.
"These people should not be going hungry. We are the greatest country in the world, the richest country in the world, and we have starving veterans and children. I'm sorry, I figured on a grassroots basis I would try to do something"