Veterans Count Down to Christmas

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COLUMBIA - As the holidays approach, residents are getting together to remember and honor veterans. Curtis Sole kicked off his "Countdown to Christmas," on Saturday to raise money and gifts for veterans living at Welcome Home, Incorporated.

Sole plans to host a countdown party for veterans each weekend by blasting Christmas music out of his big yellow van and giving residents the opportunity to make donations. Sole has been hosting "Countdown to Christmas" for over 25 years, but said it's the first time he's hosted it at Welcome Home, Inc., a veterans shelter. He said he will be parked outside of the shelter every Saturday in November, along with every Friday and Saturday in December. He said the countdown is not only an effort to provide support to veterans during the holiday season, but also to encourage the public to give gifts.

"We're here to remind people that this is a season where people begin to think about their loved ones, but I don't want them to forget the soldiers here where I am and all over America, especially here at Welcome Home," said Sole. "Don't forget these soldiers, don't forget their families because most of these soldiers are wounded and have a disability. Some of them don't have any income. [Welcome Home Inc.] is solely supported by people's hearts. I'm reminding everyone there is 45 days [until Christmas], and we can do a lot for someone in 45 days."

Aside from spreading Christmas cheer, Sole and other residents are collecting donations for veterans.

Joan Wilcox is also a part of the "Countdown to Christmas" and strongly encourages the public to donate to the veterans at Welcome Home Inc. She said the veterans need a variety of things, ranging from clothing donations to toiletries.

"The veterans that live in this home, they need gifts, they need money donations, and also they need presents," said Wilcox. "For the most part, these are veterans that do not have homes other than this, they don't have family around. Many of these are wounded veterans. They either have physical wounds, or wounds of the heart or wounds of the mind. They need our support and therefore we really want to see that [the public] helps."

Sole said any kind of donation helps.

"This is a good time to remind people if you can buy five presents for someone in the family, buy one for a veteran," Sole said. "It's a very lonely time of the year, Christmas is. Some of the [veterans] have nothing to do and no money. Let them enjoy Christmas too. I'm going to be here rain, sleet or snow, inside or outside to remind people not to forget these veterans."

"We should remember our veterans everyday of the year, but on Christmas especially. We have to think about how lucky we are, and how not lucky some of these veterans are. They fought for us, they give us America, and we need to remember that and support them," said Wilcox.

Sole said residents can also make donations at the Welcome Home Inc. office during weekdays.