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Anderson University graduate student helps homeless veterans through Operation Bedroll

Anderson Independent-Mail - 12/18/2017

Dec. 18--There's an equation Ron Aderhold wants people to understand. It's simple, he said, though many take it for granted.

"Medical plus housing equals stability in a person's life," Aderhold said. "If you're medically sane and you have a safe house, you sleep eight hours at night, you feel safe at home -- you live a stable life."

Over the summer, Aderhold, a 47-year-old Greenwood resident and graduate student pursuing his master's degree in business administration and healthcare policy at Anderson University, did an internship with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Working in Washington, D.C. for several weeks gave him the chance to see homeless veterans were lacking clean, comfortable bedding.

From there, Operation Bedroll became Aderhold's mission.

He partnered with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars to collect bedding from interns staying at the center who can't take everything with them when they leave at the end of their internships or seminars. Donation bins are set up on every residence floor for residents to leave behind their (often brand new) sheets, pillows and blankets for homeless veterans in the area, Aderhold said.

And in less than a year, Operation Bedroll has given gently-used bedding and cleaning supplies to about 600 veterans in the D.C. area, Aderhold said.

"When you're living in a room with six other people, having something new and all your own makes you feel like a human being," Aderhold said. "For me, it's more about helping than the accolades."

Kathryn Monet, chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, said Ron Aderhold was a rare find, as far as interns go.

"He was hands down the most motivated and engaging intern we have ever hosted," Monet said in a letter of recommendation for him.

As an intern, Aderhold didn't hesitate to step in and help out wherever he could. When the coalition's office manager left, he picked up the slack and quickly became an essential team member, Monet said.

Aderhold showed similar initiative with Operation Bedroll. As soon as he decided it was something he wanted to do, he started making calls and developing a plan.

"He just took the initiative and ran with it," Monet said. "He put together this entire initiative, set up a drop-off center -- and it was impressive just the volume of things that they donated: sheets and blankets and pillows and food and laundry detergent. It was amazing."

Aderhold served as a United States Army Sergeant from 1988-92. For decades, he said, he never claimed any of his benefits or sought assistance through Veterans Affairs.

"I didn't use my benefits for 25 years," Aderhold said. "I was too proud. A veteran -- you're proud, you're humble. You don't need it. Other people need it."

He knows that veterans don't want to ask for anything, even when they might need something as simple as a clean blanket.

Because of how well Operation Bedroll is doing in D.C., Aderhold is working on bringing it to Anderson University in 2018. The university would play the same role as The Washington Center and would collect student bedding at the end of each semester to donate to local homeless shelters, he said.

"This is feel-good, this is helping," Aderhold said. "It is the right thing to do."

Follow Georgie Silvarole on Twitter @gsilvarole, or send her an email at georgie.silvarole@independentmail.com.

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(c)2017 the Anderson Independent Mail (Anderson, S.C.)

Visit the Anderson Independent Mail (Anderson, S.C.) at www.independentmail.com

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