HARRISON – It’s no mystery to people throughout the region that Veterans Freedom Park in Harrison honors those who have served their country through military service, and especially those who gave their lives during that service.
It is further no mystery that the work done by the Veterans Freedom Park Committee brought the park into being, and that the Freedom Park Statue Project has executed the installation of six statues there.
Fundraising for park maintenance comes largely from the annual 5k race and a golf outing, while funding for the park’s statuary (including two commissioned majestic eagles by Clare sculptor Jeff Best on the way) and a public address system were accomplished through the efforts of some truly dedicated people. Heading up that statue project – and wrangling the many hands needed to make it happen – was the ever civic-minded Maye Tessner-Rood, who has always contended that none of it is her accomplishment, but rather that of an entire community.
The park is a great accomplishment, but with that complete, there is still a void in the lives of many veterans which needs to be filled – filled with appropriate understanding and help for emotional needs, and the willingness of others to step up to assist. In a recent discussion with the Cleaver, Tessner-Rood described how the park statue project success had led to her being approached by “Iron” Mike Rodgers, CEO of Veterans4USA. Rodgers sought her assistance with his organization’s mission to secure housing for homeless veterans. She explained that she has been working with that group for the past five years helping to get homeless veterans into housing, telling of a local veteran who was able to move into their new home on Christmas Eve. She said staff at Hayes Township had secured and decorated a tree to donate for that special occasion. She also noted Veterans4USA saw to it that a terminally ill veteran’s large family was placed into a home.
“We can’t work on this and not have a heart,” she said, and voiced her response to those who question the cause of the homelessness. “Have you lived in their shoes and saw what they saw while they were in war? I haven’t, I can only imagine the horrors. So, does that mean we turn our back? They signed on the dotted line – for us to have this freedom that we have.”
Tessner-Rood enumerated some of the many ways Veterans4USA, which covers all of Central Michigan, had managed to support veterans in need, including a partnership with ACAP in Alma and locally with Mid Michigan Community Action Agency which has resulted in securing housing for 200 veterans since 2020. She said that Rodgers and his wife had originally funded their efforts on behalf of veterans, but as it grew Rodgers founded the nonprofit group Veterans4USA. Beyond getting veterans into housing, the nonprofit provides them with furnishings, clothing, whatever is needed to get them started. It also works locally to provide veterans food distributions and free haircuts, dinners, Christmas stockings, and much, much more.
With the intention of filling his organization’s coffers with enough to keep it going for some time, Rodgers sought out Tessner-Rood’s assistance. Thus, the much-loved Snowball Dinner Dance is coming back March 23 to the Harrison Moose Lodge, 5185 N. Clare Ave., and this time the proceeds will go to housing homeless veterans.
Part of this event is a drawing for a Polaris 570 Full-Size UTV, tickets for which Rodgers was selling at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare a couple weekends back. Tickets sales will happen there again Feb. 10; tickets cost $20 each, with only 1,000 available. Tessner-Rood said that 800 must be sold or the drawing will revert to a 50/50. She also hopes to be selling tickets during the Clare Irish Festival.
Cost for the 6 p.m. sit-down Snowball dinner is $15 per person. And with only 350 tickets available, there may not be any available at the door – so, don’t wait! As Tessner-Rood said, “The closer it gets to the date, they fly off the wall.”
And that dinner? Well, bring your buffet pants, because there will be roast beef, pork, chicken, potatoes, vegetable, roll and salad, and as always, some sumptuous desserts to top it all off.
Tessner-Rood said that larger groups could call in advance to request a table, and those requests will be filled if possible. She added that while previous Snowballs have been packed with attendees, the idea now is to have a more relaxed evening with no theme or formal attire in mind. Think: Fun evening out among friends, enjoying listening and dancing to DJ’d music from multiple songbooks.
Befittingly, the Honor Guard will be Posting the Colors, and veterans will be recognized by war era, as has been done in the past.
But wait – yeah, there’s more. Dinner tickets have lines for the purchaser’s name and phone number, because there will be a Dinner Basket winner drawn. Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant has primed the Silent Auction pump with two tickets to the holder’s concert of choice in the coming year, a room, plus a $50 gift card.
Tickets also are available for a true 50/50 drawing, as well as a Lotto Board with $100 worth of scratch-off tickets and $100 worth of gift certificates. There are only 400 of those $5 Lotto Board tickets available.
Befittingly, the Honor Guard will conduct Presenttion of the Colors, and veterans will be recognized by service branch, as has been done in the past.
Tessner-Rood explained that the event had been postponed from the original Jan. 13 date due to the state’s delay in issuing the raffle license. Then, it was a matter of waiting so as not to interfere with the Harrison Frostbite Festival.
“When Frostbite’s over, the gloves are off,” she said. “And I’ll be out there pushing everybody hard. It may not be for our park, but it’s still for our veterans. You know me, that’s my passion.”
So, where to buy all those tickets? Just stop by the Harrison Moose Lodge, Jackpine Restaurant in Harrison, Trails End Pub in Leota, Trails End Restaurant and Pizzeria in Harrison, Snowbird Lanes in Harrison, the Airport Restaurant, or call Mike Rodgers at 989-418-8797 or Maye Tessner-Rood at 989-944-0075.
And remember, as the event flyers state: “All proceeds go to house our homeless veterans, support those who signed on the dotted line to protect our nation and allow us to enjoy our freedom.”
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