COVID-19 affects charitable veterans group

Published 9:44 pm Monday, November 9, 2020

NATCHEZ — The COVID-19 pandemic has hit virtually every business and charity and that includes charitable organizations that benefit veterans.

Mark LaFrancis who founded and operates the Home With Heroes Foundation in Natchez two years ago to help local veterans with needs said the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on not only charitable donations to his organization but also on operations of the organization.

Home With Heroes Foundation operates a clothing bank for veterans and LaFrancis said he closed the facility on March 11 after the pandemic began. He said he almost reopened the clothing bank a few weeks ago but COVID-19 numbers started going back up so they did not reopen it.

“It is a vulnerable population,” LaFrancis said. “The veterans, our volunteers, our customers, everybody is vulnerable and it is so close quarters. To have people so close together, even if we were wearing masks and gloves or sanitation, it still is risky.”

LaFrancis said he has been able to continue taking donations and distributing clothing by appointment.

“They can call me,” LaFrancis said. “They either bring clothes or they come and get clothes. We had a veteran who was burned out a while ago and we got a whole bunch of clothes for him.”

Otherwise, LaFrancis said the clothing bank located at 370 Seargent S. Prentiss Drive has not been open to the public, veterans and their loved ones, since March.

“We have been active in a couple of ways,” LaFrancis said of the shut down period. “At the clothing bank first off we have been accepting items by appointment when people can come and bring their clothing items to us and that’s by appointment with me. We also have been by appointment with giving out clothes and also the VFW, which shares this building, has their members select clothes as well.”

LaFrancis said he also has been distributing gift cards to veterans in need.

“They are Walmart gift cards,” LaFrancis said. “I get blocks of them. Home With Heroes pays for them, and when I get calls, especially this time when veterans and loved ones are running out of cash because they haven’t gotten their stimulus or aid, and we give them gift cards. That is pretty much our big activity right now.”

LaFrancis said the organization is in need of donations.

“Even though you can’t visually see what our activities are right now,” LaFrancis said, “we have been giving out gift cards, paying deposits, helping folks with their water bills and electric and heat, so we have been using our funds pretty much well behind the scenes and quietly.”

People interested in donating to the Foundation can reach LaFrancis at 601-442-0980 or email him at gmarklafrancis@hotmail.com. Checks can be mailed to Home With Heroes, 9 Janice Circle, Natchez, MS 39120.