Suffolk veterans group brings in $1,200 at fundraiser

A fundraiser for the Riverhead-based Suffolk County United Veterans raised about $1,200 last Thursday at the Southampton Publick House.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1989 to help homeless veterans regain their dignity and independence. It provides housing, education and job training and has a food pantry in Riverhead and a 24-bed shelter in Yaphank called The Vet’s Place, according to executive director John Lynch.

“We’re not just a shelter, we’re a home,” said Wilkens Young, program director at the shelter.

“It’s about education, and life experience,” he said. “That’s what we try to teach the guys at The Vet’s Place. Guys caught in hard times have a tendency to fall by the wayside. What we provide them is support in order to be productive members of society.”

Mr. Young isn’t just the program director, he’s a former homeless vet himself, who lived at The Vet’s Place.

Mr. Young said he served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1978 and when he got out, he found himself dealing drugs and eventually spending six years in an upstate jail. After his release in 2000, he was homeless. He eventually ended up meeting Mr. Lynch and getting his life back in order.

“Through this organization I was able to achieve the goals I set for myself,” Mr. Young said.

Thursday’s fundraiser was organized by Chris Cuddihy of Riverside, who has organized several fundraisers for the nonprofit group in recent years, most of which have involved him in an endurance event, such as rowing around Long Island or running around downtown Riverhead for 24 hours. He said he plans to organize both events again this year.

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