A concert, car show and food trucks are coming to the Orange Park Mall on Saturday, "For the Vet We Haven't Met Yet," hosted by Operation Barnabas to raise awareness for military veteran homelessness and suicide.
The all-day event will begin at 9:30 a.m. and feature The Curt Towne Band playing live music with booths for local businesses and food vendors. A variety of cars and trucks will be on display, and a bouncy house will be set up for children.
"This is the biggest event we've ever put on," said Operation Barnabas' operations officer John Green.
Green said there is an average of 22 veteran suicides a day and that Operation Barnabas seeks to provide counseling services and support to veterans facing mental health challenges. The organization also helps homeless veterans by providing hotel rooms until affordable housing can be secured for them.
With the rising cost of housing in Florida, Green explained that it has become harder to find affordable housing for the veterans supported by Operation Barnabas. This event is meant to bring awareness to the issue and raise money for housing and other necessities. Green hopes to find property owners willing to rent affordable housing to veterans in the program.
"I enjoy the freedoms that these men and women give us and the protection, so I want to support them," said Green.
Green calls himself the "behind the scenes guy" of Operation Barnabas, helping secure hotel rooms and food for veterans. He also acts as a mentor for veterans who have attempted suicide and helps them get counseling.
"[Suicide] affects everybody that was connected to that person. That's what we want to bring awareness to," explained Green. "It's not just that one soldier. It's not just that one person. It's the whole family."
Operation Barnabas also helps veterans get back on their feet after facing homelessness and joblessness. The organization partners with Mercy Auto to provide veterans with cars to commute to work.
Clay County Veterans Services estimates over 40,000 military veterans live in the county. The event gives Clay County residents a chance to come together in support of people in their community.
"I hope it's going to be a really good fun day, just people getting together for community and supporting and learning about this mission," said Green.
The event is scheduled to run on Saturday, April 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the mall. General admission is free, and VIP concert tickets are $50.