On Saturday, May 8, the Veterans’ HEAT Factory (VHF) held an event at VFW Post 10209 to raise money for their mission – helping Veterans and First Responders who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress.
A local rock and roll band, Remember When, headlined by former RCA recording artist Lenny Emanuelli performed songs from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. Enthusiastic members of the audience danced to such oldies as “Johnny B. Goode,” “My Girl,” “Dancing in the Moonlight,” and “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”
Gaye Hieb, Chaplain of the VFW Auxiliary, gave the Invocation. Public Relations Coordinator Sarah Nachin, speaking on behalf of Gus Guadagnino, who could not be there, welcomed everyone to the event. Guadagnino is the founder and CEO of Veterans’ HEAT Factory.
In a letter that he wrote, Guadagnino stated, “This event could not have happened without the determination and dedication to our success from the VFW Post 10209 and the Remember When band. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one for your support and dedication. Because of you we are able to keep our doors open to continue helping our Heroes that have sacrificed so much for us!”
Ms. Nachin then asked all the active and retired members of the military and First Responders to stand and be recognized.
Honored guests included Gold Star Families – those who have lost a relative to combat. These included Dean Coleman, father of Army SPC (Specialist) Justin Dean Coleman who died in Afghanistan in 2009 and Debbie Forbes, grandmother of Army Staff Sergeant Michael Wayne Schafer who was killed in action in 2005. Other local men honored were Marine Corps Sergeant Lea Robert Mills, killed in action in 2006; Army SPC Cody Clark Grater, killed in Iraq in 2007; and Army SPC Clarence Williams III, killed in Afghanistan in 2012.
Also in the audience, proudly wearing her Junior ROTC uniform, was Kelsey Barats-Shumate, who was recently appointed to the Air Force Academy. Accompanying her at the event were her parents, Tina and Jeff Shumate.
Diane Scotland-Coogan, a graduate professor at Saint Leo University and the volunteer Director of Behavioral Health at the HEAT spoke about her work with the veterans and First Responders who attend the 14-week modules at VHF. She explained how the organization is helping these heroes cope with Post-Traumatic Stress.
Tim Gonzalez, a veteran and client of Veterans’ HEAT Factory, gave a moving testimony about how the organization has helped him. Gonzalez was on the brink of suicide when he realized he needed help.
“At first, I didn’t participate too much. I just listened to other people talk. Then I started opening up. If it hadn’t been for Gus and the counselors here, I don’t know where I’d be today. The HEAT Factory saved my life.”
Numerous local businesses and individuals donated more than $3000 worth of gift certificates, gift baskets and items for the Silent Auction.
Despite the pandemic still on peoples’ minds, the event was well-attended and audience comments reflected how much people enjoyed the event.
Spring Hill resident Ken Krohn commented, “I had a great time. The music was fantastic. There was a lot to choose from at the Silent Auction and I went home with a great deal on an Espresso coffeemaker.”
“It was a nice atmosphere and very informative. When the guy [Gonzalez] stood up and spoke about what he went through and what he’s going through on a daily basis, it really opened my eyes,” remarked Katherine Roberts of New Port Richey.
If you are a veteran or First Responder who is struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress or know of someone who suffers from this “invisible wound,” call the Veterans’ HEAT Factory at 352-251-7015 or log onto www.veteransheatfactory.com.