Every Wednesday, Vietnam War veteran Carlen Pippin can be found handing out food to fellow veterans in need.
The 80-year-old retired veterinarian, a Shelby County resident, has received AARP's Andrus Award for Community Service, the seniors advocacy group’s highest honor for volunteers over 50.
Five years ago, Pippin started a local Veterans Rural Outreach group to help Kentucky military veterans in need, after several told him they were sleeping in their cars or on the street.
"So we've been helping feed these veterans through Dare to Care Food Bank program, and we found out, not only did they need food, they also needed other things," Pippin relates.
So, Pippin launched a project to build tiny homes for veterans on a plot of land in Shelby County.
According to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 500 veterans in the state lack regular housing.
Pippin is currently building six homes, each around 12-by-30 feet in size. He says the program is a model for Kentucky and other states working to reduce homelessness among former service members.
"There, we hope to have most of these done, or all of them done, within the next 90 days," he states.
Pippin also volunteers with A Place to Sleep, a nonprofit organization in Shelbyville that provides beds for children. He even converted his fishing trailer into a mattress-moving trailer to deliver the beds.
Pippin’s advice for fellow Kentuckians: if you want to see change in your community, pitch in to help solve local issues.
"I can't think of anything that I could recommend any higher than being a volunteer,” he states. “Everybody has talents. I would just strongly urge everyone to be active in their community. Be a volunteer."
Pippin is donating his $2,000 cash prize to A Place to Sleep.
(provided by Public News Service)