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Poetry with Purpose event raises funds to combat suicide among military vets

Words make us wonder. Words make us feel. Words help us heal.

Those realities dawned on me during the most recent Poetry with Purpose gathering in Temecula, an event that raised funds to prevent suicides among our military veterans.

About 40 people paid $15 each to speak and listen Thursday, Jan. 18, at The Coffee Shop, 27725 Jefferson Avenue, a hybrid food and drink business. The beneficiary was a nonprofit group, Save the Brave, and the host.

The poetry group was launched years ago by Jeannie Young and her husband, Les. She read a pair of her offerings. In turn, Jeannie guided other storytellers, poets and musicians to the microphone.

Tyler Kalisiak, founder of The Coffee Shop and the Guiltless Food Co., explained how his firm serves the needy. He told how his surplus food is funneled through a community group and helps feed about 3,000 people a year.

Manny Madea, board secretary for Save the Brave, told how that nonprofit organization has helped more than 500 vets and relatives through its education scholarships and jujitsu and offshore fishing programs. The training and the bonding have taught, strengthened and connected those in need, Madea said.

"Every single donation is a changed life," he said. "If we can save just one life, we're doing our job."

Suicide has left its mark on me and many others. My only niece committed suicide in Texas shortly after she turned 18. That inexplicable tragedy shook my family to its core.

My work as a newspaper reporter has drawn me to several suicide scenes – most memorably to the Santa Rosa Plateau where a man took his life alongside a quiet, golden meadow. I have met three women whose spouses ended their walks on God's green Earth. I have a friend who struggles to resist.

A recent television news report labeled the problem "an epidemic of loneliness" in America. Suicide claimed one life every minute in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 17 vets a day took their own lives in 2020, according to the Veterans Administration.

Adjusting for population, age and sex differences, the suicide rate for veterans that year was 57% greater than for non-veteran adults, its data states.

The somber focus of the evening was reflected in many of the poetry verses. Mine followed along those lines.


We all

each suffer

such deep sorrow

in silence.

A poem about a poem

I wrote a poem today.

It is too sad to share.

It is about emptiness.

As I walked to my car, a man I do not know approached me and praised the brevity and clarity of my words. I thanked him profusely and quietly thanked God for this place, these people, their poetry and their generosity.

The next Poetry with Purpose event will unfold from 5-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at Rival Coffee, 24865 Hospitality Place, Building E, in Murrieta. The fundraiser will benefit local teachers. Hope to see you there.


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