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Hometown Heroes: 77 year-old starts "Veterans Outreach" program

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

James "Jake" Sanford knows all too well what veterans go through once they return back to their loved ones.

"The return is almost as hard as leaving.  I was blessed to return to a wife, but some veterans have no one when they come home.  Some vets have no family to comfort them," said Sanford.

It's  because of his personal experience that the 77 year-old veteran started the "Veterans Outreach" program in 2000. What started out as a two-member non-profit organization has grown into a sixty-member program. The all volunteer group operates solely on grants, donated funds, and monies generated by fund raising events.

With the community's help over the years, "Veterans Outreach" has helped the Mississippi Veteran's Home in Collins by purchasing clothing, personal care items, furniture, and even specially designed bath tubs for the disabled residents. The home operates on a current cost of about $56 per day to each resident for room and board, and it's been Sanford's mission through "Veterans Outreach" to provide not only spiritual guidance and counseling, but to furnish goods and services not otherwise supplied by the state of Mississippi or other government agencies.

"There are some veterans who come in here with absolutely no clothing, no family, nothing.  We want to be their family. We want to give them what they need physically and emotionally," said Sanford. In 2011, the organization purchased two therapy bath tubs at a cost of $9,545 each.

If you'd like to help or contribute to the "Veterans Outreach" organization, you can contact Sanford at (601) 765-6905 or 15 Pritchett Drive, Collins, MS 39428.