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Bedford Township veterans gifted free visit to Toledo Zoo 'Lights Before Christmas'

The veterans and their families were also given a free meal and gifts for their children.
Credit: WTOL 11

TEMPERANCE, Mich. — For many in our area, the holiday season isn't complete without at least one trip to the Toledo Zoo's lights before Christmas.

Which is why one organization in Bedford Township worked to make sure local veterans in need got the chance to visit the lights with their families on Sunday.

Inside of the former Temperance post office building now sits the Bedford Township Veterans Center, where they offer local veterans a place to find help, or simply find some conversation.

The center is not government affiliated, and prides itself on connecting veterans to services without sifting through red tape.

"We've watched many walk through the door, not quite doing well. But leaving with smiles and confidence and knowing they're loved and have a safe place here," said Annette Kurtz, events coordinator for the veterans center

For the second year now, the center has invited veterans and their families to a Christmas celebration.

This year, the Women of Bedford United organized the event, offering a free meal and gifts for the kids.

The goal is to help bridge the gap for these families who may be struggling financially, but can't qualify for government assistance.

"There are a lot of people that kind of fall through the cracks, they don't qualify for any other organization, but still yet need a little help," said Meg Smith with Women of Bedford United.

And along with the meal and the Christmas gifts at the service center, these veterans and their families were also given a trip down to the Toledo Zoo lights Before Christmas.

The Bedford School district offered up a school bus as a free ride down to Toledo, and the Women of Bedford United paid for admission.

And for vets like Charles Caren, this event gave him an opportunity to give his kids a more enriched Christmas experience than he otherwise could not have afforded. 

"No, nothing like this, nothing like they have been doing. This is very, very special. I tell them that they're lucky and that I'm lucky, and we're all just lucky," said Charles.

The Bedford Township Veterans Center runs entirely off of grants and donations.