The c0lumn that says Derick Glenn is doing great things for veterans in Millville through his “Celebrating Our Veterans” program, helping 25-30 of our heroes with their life needs.
By Jack Hummel
Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
Google all columns at jackhummelblog
Derick Glenn was on 92.1 FM with us and Bridgeton advocate Jorje Romero, and Glenn — the former Derick “D” Clown — caused a lot of phone calls to the show from veterans.
A little history
Nov. 14, 2015
They had been dating for a little more than a year and Roberto Ortega was planning on taking his girlfriend Yolymary Valentin to the top of the World Trade Center as a romantic treat.
The date they had picked out was Sept. 11, 2001.
Ortega lived in Newark and worked late the night before, canceling the date and possibly saving the young couple’s lives. The World Trade Center attack changed Ortega’s life though, and that month he signed up to join the U.S. Navy.
A decade later, Ortega and Valentin were still together and have children. They moved away from Newark to Millville to escape the urban blight and the crime. Work was hard to come by and their apartment was close to being condemned. They appeared headed for homelessness until they met Derick Glenn, CEO and founder of Celebrating Our Veterans.
Now they have a house and their children have a yard to play in.
“Everything I have accomplished in the last five years is thanks to Derick,” Ortega said.
It’s Glenn’s dream to fix up the vacant homes in the Third Ward of Millville — where most blocks have a home that’s either boarded up or burned out — and have a homeless veterans family move into them. He is hoping to work with different banks, organizations and even the city to make his dream come true but it’s one he believes in.
The Ortega family is proof that a veteran’s family sometimes needs help with housing — even if they are too proud to ask for it.
“Most people, when they think of a homeless veteran, the stereotype is a man that looks similar to a bum with ragged clothes, long scruffy beard and long hair that sits on a corner asking for money,” Glenn said. “Does that still happen? Yes, there are still veterans that look like that. However, with the economy and the country the way it is right now, there is another image that most people do not even think about. That is the veteran family — the husband and wife with two or three or four children that have either been evicted from their apartments or their home has been foreclosed on. ”
Finding a home
By his own admission, Ortega is not the best at remembering names but, if you ask him about an event from his life, he knows the exact date it happened.
He entered the military on Sept. 26, 2001.
“We come from Newark, which is a crime infested area,” Ortega said. “I got robbed probably three times before I decided this was enough. I wanted to take my kids out of that environment to better their life down here — which we have accomplished.”
On Oct. 3, 2011, his family moved to Millville for better opportunities.
“Six months later, after I moved here, I damn near became homeless with my wife and five kids — four kids then.”
Their sewerage line was broken and methane gas leaked in the building. Each member of his family took their turn in the hospital because of illness and Valentin even had a miscarriage while at the apartment.
Ortega was working as a security guard at the Progresso facility in Vineland — one of two jobs he worked at the time — when he heard Glenn’s radio program. He wrote down Glenn’s phone number and told Valentin.
One day, while Valentin was at the hospital, Ortega finally made up his mind to call Glenn.
On Aug. 27, 2012, his family moved to a nicer place with help from Glenn and they lived there for the next few years. Ortega is employed as a truck driver.
Celebrating Our Veterans helped out Ortega and his family so, in return, Ortega did anything he could to repay the favors and give back himself.
Glenn acquired a house on Buck Street, a repossessed property from Wells Fargo, across the street from the current Celebrating Our Veterans headquarters. Ortega helped fix up the property.
It wasn’t until an unveiling ceremony a few months ago that he learned the house would be his. They currently rent it from Celebrating Our Veterans and hope to own it outright by next year. They receive housing support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The family moved in on Sept. 1 and has been living in the very definition of comfort.
“They have demonstrated already in two or three months their ability to care for this home and maintain the yard,” Glenn said. “They are tremendous tenants. They are incredible.”
Ortega and his family help maintain the headquarters across the street and volunteer when they can. Ortega was helping out Friday, handing out donated items to the visiting veterans.
Glenn wants to give them veterans as neighbors in the Third Ward. His project will help clean up the dilapidated, vacant homes and potentially help the neighborhood rebound from the recent rash of crime.
“We have a need, Celebrating Our Veterans has a need, this community has a need for housing for our veterans — affordable housing — and it’s not happening.”
Glenn set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the project.
For more information about Celebrating our Veterans, visitwww.celebratingourveterans.com.
— Don Woods
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