Steve Henderson and Michael Resendez could have spent Saturday watching college football or otherwise enjoying an unseasonably warm Southern California autumn day
But instead, Henderson laced up his walking shoes for United Way’s HomeWalk 2015 5K walk/fun run at Exposition Park in Los Angeles while Resendez manned two shifts at the Orange County Food Bank as part of Edison International’s efforts for National Family Volunteer Day.
For the two men, the events had special meaning because they focused on military veterans, specifically to fight homelessness and end hunger.
“After spending 10 years in the military myself, it's awesome to see people come together to try to eliminate homelessness for veterans,” said Henderson, an Army veteran who participated in the walk with his wife, Rosetta Dantzler Henderson, a Southern California Edison project manager. “I really look forward to an event like this making a big difference.”
Los Angeles is part of a national effort to find housing for the country’s homeless veterans. In a count earlier this year, officials identified 4,344 homeless veterans in the greater Los Angeles area alone.
Nearly 50 Edison employees and their families were among 12,000 volunteers who participated in Saturday’s fundraising walk/run. The event raised more than $1.1 million for the homeless veterans’ effort. Edison International, parent company of SCE, donated $25,000 as a HomeWalk sponsor.
“We really need to be here today to show our support for veterans for the sacrifices they have made and to make sure we're giving back to them as they have given to us," said Janet Clayton, a senior vice president at Edison International and SCE and one of the HomeWalk volunteers.
In Orange County, Resendez, an SCE electrical system inspector who spent 23 years in the Army before joining the company, was among 200 Edison employees and their families who staffed three shifts packing food boxes.
The Food Bank estimates there are nearly 456,000 people at risk for hunger every month in Orange County.
“Veterans exist in our community and tragically are facing real needs too,” said Mark Lowry, executive director of the Food Bank. Edison International gave $5,000 to the Community Action Partnership of Orange County, the umbrella group that oversees the Food Bank, as part of National Family Volunteer Day.
Resendez, who brought his 14-year-old daughter, Priscilla, to the event said the chance to help needy veterans was a major motivation to volunteer this year.
“We’ve always had a sense of brotherhood in the Army — we’ve got each other’s backs,” he said. “If the food goes to homeless veterans, to my brothers and sisters, it’s a blessing.”
The Edison volunteers assembled 5,840 food boxes packed with a variety of basics ranging from peanut butter and milk to green beans and grape juice. Altogether, Saturday’s 1,600 Food Bank volunteers packed 36,401 boxes, a new Volunteer Day record.