FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Carmen Cumberland and Jim Garigen are veterans making a difference helping other veterans. Cumberland served in the Navy from 1988 to 1993. She was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. Garigen is a combat veteran who served in the Army from 1981 to 1993 when he medically retired.
During Cumberland’s service, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She says Congresswoman Jill Long was able to bring her home to serve at the Naval Reserve Center in Fort Wayne so she could be with her dad. After her father passed away, Cumberland returned South Carolina where her duties included servicing and supplying submarines. Long’s gesture is something that stuck with Cumberland and helped lead her down a road of helping others. “It’s all about paying it forward,” she says. Cumberland is currently the President and CEO of the Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne. A big part of her job is working with veteran’s groups. One of those groups is Invisible Vets which was founded by Garigen. He says after he was medically retired, he wasn’t done serving. “Our goal was to bring dignity back to those who served, and for whatever reason ended up on the streets.” That was completely unacceptable to him. “The Invisible Vets part comes from they ended up being invisible.” Garigen’s passion for helping veterans who have fallen through the cracks is obvious. “There are people out there living on the streets simply because of what they experienced while in service. The people who raised their right hand and were willing to give up their life for their country deserve so much more than the way we’re treating them when they come home.”
The two served together on various projects for veterans. Garigen says the partnership really took off during the pandemic. “Carmen’s program just blew up because of the need. They were taking care of everybody. But for those homebound veterans they couldn’t reach, we took the food to them.” The assistance for veterans is made possible by the Hope for Heroes program at the food bank. Cumberland says the program was started in 2016. “We wanted to help veterans who were in transition. Whether they were being deployed, in between jobs, or whatever the case may be. We wanted to help” In the past five years, Cumberland say the program expanded because the need grew. “It’s not just veterans. It’s widowed spouses, family members of veterans and those currently serving. We make it very easy for them.” Garigen used the program himself when he was briefly without a home. He says it couldn’t be easier to use. “You literally walk in the door, show your proof of service and within seconds you’re in here shopping.”
Cumberland and Community Harvest feel strongly that those who make significant sacrifices for our country should never struggle to put food on the table. “They’ve done a great service to us. They’re the reason we’re standing here today. Shame on us is we can’t help.”
For more on the Hope for Heroes program and the impact it can have on veterans and their families, please watch this powerful testimonial from Jim Garigen.