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Hobart residents help donate coats for veterans

By Ben Rodgers
Staff Writer

HOBART – Thanks in part to numerous donations from residents in Hobart, many veterans in need across Wisconsin will be a little bit warmer this winter.

For the drive Rolling Thunder Chapter 3 teamed up with Wisconsin Patriot Guard Riders for the rider’s Share the Warmth campaign.

“We want to make sure our veterans and military families have the warm winter clothing they need in order to be warm and healthy for the winter months,” said Mark Goebel, assistant state captain for the Patriot Guard Riders.

Four years ago some Patriot Guard Riders gave a winter coat to a veteran in Union Grove. That veteran got teary eyed and said he hasn’t had a new coat before.

At that point they had an idea to help those in need.

“It’s something that we all take for granted, that we all have what we need or we go out and get what we need,” Goebel said. “But we decided at that point in time there’s so many veterans or military families near homelessness that don’t have the ability to do that.”

Rolling Thunder and Hobart got involved when Mary Smith, village clerk and Rolling Thunder member heard about the program.

She put a notice in The Press and a Hobart newsletter and donations started pouring in, to the point of two truck loads full of winter coats, hats, gloves and snow pants.

“I was amazed and I’m so grateful that Hobart has these kind of residents,”Smith said.

Goebel said the right kind of people can make a worthy program successful.

“When you put a good cause in front of good people, people just respond in kind,” he said. “That’s what always happens with this program.”

Goebel said the program will continue across the state until there is no longer a need.

Smith said Rolling Thunder is behind this cause 100 percent.

“I don’t think we’re going to let it go now,” she said.

The Wisconsin Patriot Guard Riders came to be in response to protests from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for its inflammatory hate speech, against American soldiers, LGBT people, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews and politicians.

When the church started showing up and protesting at fallen soldiers’ funerals, the Patriot Guard Riders formed to give grieving families a safe, private and respectful grieving environment.

Now the group also helps veterans’ service programs in Chippewa Falls, Union Grove and King. Veterans at those places are often homeless or near homeless.

Rolling Thunder is a group that also works for veterans in making sure none are forgotten.

“We work to keep the veterans first and foremost in everybody’s mind. To remind people that many veterans have never made it home yet,” Smith said.

The two teaming up, with the help of Hobart residents is a perfect match.

“God bless them,” Goebel said. “It’s an amazing thing.”

Smith thanked all of those who made a donation.

“Our veterans, many of whom are in great need, will be warmer for your generosity,” she said. “The coat, hat, gloves and boots you provided will warm them physically, but knowing someone remembers them and cares enough to share will do much more than you can ever know.”

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