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Teen donates birthday money to veterans home for 11 years

April 5, 2019

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — At age 6, Caleb Craft, now 17 and a junior at Jackson High School, made his first donation to the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau.

With his birthday just over a month after the Christmas holiday, Caleb explained his parents sat him down and asked him whether there was something else he could do to give back to the community in honor of his birthday, rather than asking for more gifts.

“We believe that there’s some simple truths we’re supposed to live by,” said Chad Craft, Caleb’s dad. “And one of those things is helping people and trying to make things just a little bit better.”

Caleb’s father served in the Army for 22 years, and his grandfather served in the National Guard for 27 years, so he’s familiar with military service and its importance.

Caleb told the Southeast Missourian that his family members will write monetary checks to the Veterans Home, and his grandmother and aunt write neutral letters he hands out when he drops off his donation.

“Since it’s not my money, I’m just kind of like the middle man,” Caleb said. “I’m really thankful to my family for giving the money and the letters and stuff. For me, my favorite part is when I go and drop off the donations, getting to talk to some of the veterans and seeing what they do with the money and it seems like it’s run really good up there.”

Since 2008, Caleb has collected nearly $4,500 in donations for the Veterans Home, which allows these community members to participate in a variety of outings and opportunities.

“What most people don’t know is that the state only supplies the basic needs for the veterans that live here,” said Kristin Pind, supervisor of volunteer services at the Cape Girardeau Veterans Home. “So that means they pay for the building maintenance, electricity and bills and things like that, the food and staff. All of the other fun things that you see that we do, like when we take them out to the casino, when we go fishing, do bingo, anything like that ... that stuff comes strictly from donations.”

Pind said Caleb’s donations have helped with the outdoor courtyard maintenance and upkeep, helped to furnish the recreational room and other miscellaneous recreational activities. This year, his donation will go toward the home’s big fireworks display.

“We take our veterans out as much as we possibly can,” Pind said. “It’s good for them, and it’s good for our community to see them out and about.”

″(The Veterans Home) runs heavily on volunteers: people that give way more than my family does,” Chad Craft said. “So to be a small part of that is a pretty neat deal. And I think, again, that perspective you get from that, that you do your part in the greater good and then you get to see how all that works.”

Caleb said he sees himself continuing on this tradition for as long as he can, especially for as long as he’s still living in the area.

“I know when I go off to college it may be a little harder, but I enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy visiting with the people, and I think it’s important. I hope my family members don’t have to end up there, but if they do, it’s important to me that everything’s run good there.”

“I think it’s just been a good deal for us as parents, I think it’s been a good deal for him and his growth,” Chad Craft said. “And I’ll tell you, he does things every day that challenge us to be a little bit better. The fact that he has continued to do this and has done it with an open heart, I think challenges us to do a little bit better each day.”

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com

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