Adam Minton knows how difficult it is for veterans to transition back to civilian life. A Military Intelligence Army Captain for eight years, he spent four years in Germany and two years in Korea before returning to the US and his hometown of Fishers, Indiana.
Upon his return, Minton struggled to integrate himself back into his community and find a steady job that took advantage of his skills. He eventually landed a job in corporate security, but has since discovered a new passion - helping other veterans in need.
Together with his girlfriend Erin Parks, Minton founded the nonprofit organization The Minks Kids, which provides food and goods for homeless veterans.
Erin recently finished a master's program in nonprofit management in order to make sure their organization is successfully run. "We semi-launched the nonprofit last year and did some work with a local veterans organization in Indianapolis and now we're ready to branch out and fly on our own," Erin tells the Good News.
The couple, who have been together five years, run their nonprofit out of their home, filling their garage with donations and supplies.
They work with a local veteran's organization that provides short-term housing for homeless veterans, each home housing four to eight veterans who would otherwise be out on the street. The organization helps them find jobs, takes them to and from medical appointments - basically anything they need to get back on their feet.
Adam and Erin visits one of these homes once a month to provide dinner (and emotional support) for the veterans. Adam loves to cook, so it's an especially enjoyable experience for him.
As for where the money comes from to pay for these meals, there's a variety of sources. "Some of it's out of our own pockets, some of it's donations from churches and other organizations," says Adam. "The last time we did an end of the year event, and my parents' church donated money and gift baskets to give to the individuals at the houses that we're tailoring to."
Adam says the reactions of the veterans they help are a mixed bag. "The majority of them are very, very appreciative that there's someone else out there," he says. "There are some others who have shied away from it a little bit. They're appreciative, but not as much as the others because [they think], 'Why am I in this situation if I served overseas.'"
There are a number of things that make reintegrating back into society a challenge for returning military men and women. "[The government provides] an education program for when people transition out, but it's more information-based," says Adam. "There isn't anyone to hold your hand, it's a lot of learning on your own. That's what I had to do. You basically get a package, you go through some training or some classes, but there's no one to assist you while you're going through it."
"There's not a whole lot of jobs for these guys to find," he adds. "Our duties and responsibilities don't always transition to a civilian-type job."
"It's not that [veterans] don't get the job skills," says Erin. "It's that employers fail to recognize the validity of the skill they got while they were in [the military]."
The couple hopes to expand their efforts by opening a commercial-sized kitchen to do large-scale dinners so they can serve more people, faster. "He had talked about having some type of soup kitchen probably three-and-a-half years ago, and it was a nagging thought and desire in the back of his mind, eating away at him," said Erin.
In order to open their soup kitchen, they need funding, as well as the support of their community. Until then, they'll keep visiting veterans to let them know they're not alone.
"We try to plant that seed of hope by giving them that meal, letting them know that as a veteran they're not left behind," Adam says. "That someone like myself is looking after them."
If you'd like to donate money, goods or your time to helping Erin and Adam help homeless veterans, visit The Minks Kids website.