Buckeye veteran JC Reece served 22 years in the armed forces, but between tours in 1972 he suffered an ordeal he will never forget.
“I became homeless myself,” Reece said.
“I lived under railroad bridges in railroad cars, and I was like that for almost two years. I know what it’s like to be homeless. I know what it’s like to be there.
To provide safety and shelter for others, Reece is collecting donations for others in the same situation.
He has been doing this since 1993 when he left the service and saw dire need in the valley. He purchased items himself and received personal hygiene items from fellow Shriners.
“Then I would go out and spend a good chunk of my money on socks, knit gloves, body wipes and food and things like that,” Reece said. “The personal hygiene items helped offset the cost, which I was extremely grateful for.
“There are times when my wife and I make these bags and we drive around and deliver them to people. People are so grateful and you can see the smile on their face and in their eyes; they appreciate it.
Now disabled, Reece served nearly 22 years between 1961 and 1993, 10 years in the US Navy and 12 in the US Coast Guard.
Phoenix has been one of America’s fastest growing cities, but this in turn causes inflation, making it difficult for some to afford living expenses. According to City of Phoenix surveys, in 2020, 7,419 people were homeless. Between the years 2019 and 2020, the homeless harvested 18%.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of donations has started to slow down even though the need is urgent.
“So I’ve had a lot of other people, but donations seem to be going down with COVID and the increase in everything is expensive,” Reece said. “People can’t give anymore and they cling to what they have.”
To try to combat this, many services have been created to help those in need, such as Central Arizona Shelter Services and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which Reece has worked with.
He has also worked with Veterans Assisting Veterans and the Shriners Hospital for Children.
His work with the Shriners Hospital for Children has helped raise funds and bring in donations for them.
“It’s not just the child we treat, we treat the whole family,” Reece said. “When children come into the hospital, they get to know the staff and it’s like by their first name.”
Reece and his wife, Veronica Ann, traveled to Utah in 2018 to participate in the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital “Walk for Love” event. They raised nearly $2,000 for the Shriners Hospital.
This year again, the duo will take part in the “Walk for Love” event and have already raised close to $2,500.
“It’s a great organization and the only paycheck a Shriner gets is the thanks and hugs from family and kids,” Reece said. “It’s our salary. That’s all you need when helping out.
He hopes to continue raising more to go beyond the $2,500 goal, as it’s all to help children.
For more information on how to donate personal hygiene items, clothing and other goods or donate for his team walk, Reece can be contacted at [email protected]