Army vet reaches out to help comrades ‘survive’

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December 3, 2011 - 12:00 AM

When Tim Emmons spent some time at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Topeka to get some work done this summer, the 53-year-old Army veteran saw fellow soldiers in need. Just like when he was serving in Desert Storm, Emmons didn’t hesitate to act.
Emmons and wife Sherrie are making and selling survival bracelets and necklaces, donating all proceeds to the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System Home in Topeka.
“I got to visiting with some of the old time veterans over at the nursing home and just listening to them talk,” he said. “Some of them don’t have families that care about them anymore. Some of them just don’t have families, period.”
At the same time he was learning abut the struggles many veterans face, Emmons was also learning how to make what those in the military call survival bracelets made from woven parachute chord. One bracelet is made up of as much as 8 feet of chord. These types of bands or bracelets were typically worn by soldiers and hikers, but now that they are trending as accessories, Emmons saw a perfect opportunity to help a specific group of people in need.
“Some of the people who work up there (at the VA home) keep an eye on those guys and they’ll go get them a T-shirt or underwear if they start seeing holes,” he said, of what money raised will go toward. “I gave them strict instructions what it was for.”
 After purchasing their first round of basic parachord and selling them off at Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and bingo halls in the area, the new philanthropists decided to get a bit more creative.
“(Sherrie) got to looking online and found all these neat colors we could get,” Emmons said. “We got those colors and started showing these people and their eyes just lit up like Christmas lights.”
Now, with more than 40 colors available, the bracelets are selling like hotcakes. People can choose almost any color variations, whether it be a favorite sports team, school colors or any other interest.
“You have your choice on how you’d like to fasten it,” Sherrie Emmons said. “You can have it with a button, a bead or a clip.”
With bracelets ranging between $3 and $7, depending on the thickness — one to three strand bands are available — and the fastening mechanism, it’s no wonder the pair have already raised more than $1,000.
“If you look on eBay there are a million of them, but they’re all like $10 and up plus shipping, Sherrie Emmons said.
The Emmonses said they hope to use the bracelets to help local fundraising groups as well.  Tim Emmons said if groups are looking to raise money, they can purchase bracelets in bulk, which will get them an even cheaper price than the $3 to $7.
“Then they can turn around and sell them for whatever they want,” he said, pointing to Relay For Life, breast cancer awareness groups and school organizations as potential clients.
On top of a fair price, customers also get a hand-crafted bracelet made to order. Tim Emmons said although there are a few bracelets on display — the Emmonses have a booth in Kathy Gilbert’s downtown Iola Farmers Insurance office — the majority of the bracelets aren’t made until someone places an order.
But that doesn’t mean customers have to wait long.
“I can make one in about three or four minutes,” he said.
Gilbert said she’s letting the Emmons use her store front because she supports the cause.
“We forget about veterans often times, especially when they get out of the service,” she said.
The Emmons are also selling bingo novelties — bags, seat cushions and T-shirts — to pay for the bracelet materials.
“I’m not making a dime off this,” Tim Emmons said. “It all goes to the veterans.”
Bracelets can be purchased at the Iola Farmers Insurance office, 109 W. Madison Ave. — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday. Thursday the office closes at 3 p.m. Orders can also be placed by contacting both Tim and Sherrie at 228-0481 or 228-3401.
“They can call anytime,” Tim Emmons said.

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