By Teresa Varley Steelers.com
The Steelers and Alejandro Villanueva show veterans they 'are not forgotten.'
The surprised look on the faces of those who live at Veterans Place when Alejandro Villanueva walked in the door was priceless.
“It means more than most people know,” said Marlon Ferguson, Executive Director of Veterans Place. “Just having the commitment from the Steelers, and from Alejandro. He is a veteran, coming out here showing support for our veterans, it means more than people know.
“I am a Navy veteran and veterans, we share that camaraderie. To be able to understand and walk in another veterans shoes, so you can empathize and sympathize it means everything. He comes and has that rapport with our veterans and it means a lot. They are excited he came.”
Villanueva went to Veterans Place to make a special delivery of televisions and refrigerators, donated by the Steelers and Heinz Field. The items were distributed to the townhouses on property where veterans live, giving them a boost as they go through personal struggles.
“It’s amazing what he did,” said Kevin Giel, who served in the U.S. Army from 1986-92. “The television, I was shocked to get that. It’s shocking. I got off work at 9 a.m. and grabbed lunch and didn’t expect this. It’s a great surprise. I am speechless. That was great. I can’t wait for the season to watch games in it. It’s a long way off, but I can’t wait.
“For him to think of us. When I got out in 1992 it was nothing like it is today, which I appreciate very much. I can’t thank the people of the Veterans Administration for helping me get through what I went through. It’s nice the veterans are getting more attention than they have been. From what I went through, I lost everything. When I was homeless, I was pretty hopeless. My sister told me you are a veteran, go get help. It’s been great ever since. Every day it gets better. People like (Al and the Steelers) that care about the veterans, it’s very much appreciated.”
Veterans Place is committed to ending homelessness among veterans, helping them get back on their feet, giving them a place to live and the dignity they have earned.
“Having the televisions and refrigerators donated, the veterans don’t have the resources to get these things,” said Ferguson. “Coming from the Steelers organization it means so much more. We are a small non-profit battling a big program. Veteran homelessness, it never should be. We go serve the country, and come back and some veterans can’t make it. We need partnerships to combat homelessness. Our goal is to eradicate veteran homelessness.
“The Steelers, Alejandro, they are sending a clear message to the veterans that you are not forgotten, you do matter, and we are all part of this big veteran family and we are here to help each other.”