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Valley woman working to house veterans one donation at a time

Barbara Sesate (left) said her life was changed when she attended a memorial dedication. She now runs a charity to help veterans find a home. (Facebook Photo)

PHOENIX — One day in 2008, Barbara Sesate saw something that made her mad.

Sesate was attending the dedication of a veteran’s monument at the state capitol when she looked around and saw homeless veterans.

“I thought it was a travesty that we have veterans that were homeless, that were hungry,” she said, adding that was the moment she changed her life.

Sesate worked to feed those veterans and began volunteering at other organizations. Soon, she and others were serving food at the Victory Place Shelter in south Phoenix and helping out where they could.

She said another turning point came when her group was asked to provide hygiene kits for the Arizona Veterans StandDown event in Phoenix. The three-day annual event brings a wide variety of services together to provide immediate help to homeless veterans.

“I always say God tricked me by getting me there because that was the most moving thing that I’ve encountered in my life,” Sesate said. “To walk into a place and you’ve got hundreds of homeless veterans in one small area — it was overwhelming. I cried my eyes out. “

Sesante soon put her seat cover business in the hands of other managers and “dove headfirst” into her work for homeless veterans.

In 2009, she founded United for Change in response to President Barack Obama’s call for a day of service. The organization works to get medically-vulnerable veterans off the street and administers housing assistance through the VASH Bridge Program, among other things.

A few years ago, Sesate said a volunteer started collecting furniture and household goods for veterans with new homes. The idea took hold, and United for Change now operates a warehouse for donated items.

“I would say 90 percent of the stuff that we get in goes to a veteran,” she said. “We will not dispose of … anything a veteran could use.”

The Veterans Furniture Warehouse accepts household goods of all kinds, preferably in good condition. Pots and pans, small appliances and tableware are particularly needed. Pickup is available.

“We always need more,” Sesate said. “Right now, I don’t have any dressers.”

According to the group’s website, United for Change has provided furnishings for at least 1,400 veterans.