MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) — Everyone deserves a home for the holidays, but joys are few when you’re a veteran and living on the streets.

Back in October, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) opened its newest transitional shelter for female veterans. Newly built and decorated with furniture, all it lacks is some holiday cheer.

But on Monday morning, a fully decorated Christmas tree arrived with ornaments donated from people across the state.

“For many women veterans who find themselves homeless at the holidays, just like everyone, it can be very difficult. So this is bringing a little joy into this house,” said MACV’s Trista Matascastillo.

A joy to be spread one decoration at a time. Each is carefully placed on the Community Tree to remind these veterans that they’re not alone. But more than simple ornaments, each decoration carries a special meaning.

Like the patriotic heart, donated by the Darryl and Vicki Bonin family.

“The heart shaped ornament itself wasn’t very big, but my heart certainly is for that and hopefully whoever gets the ornament certainly understands the significance behind it,” explained Vicki Bonin.

Along with the personal decorations came heartfelt messages — expressions of support as meaningful as any gift.

“God Bless our veterans for what they have done for this country,” Darryl Bonin adds.

To Jerry and Rolayne Herrley from Shakopee, MACV is near and dear to them. Jerry owes his life to the care he received at the Veteran’s Medical Center.

The Herrley’s needle point flag ornament is a symbol of their thanks.

“Out of the kindness of our hearts if we all give just a little bit,” explained Rolayne Herrley. “There are veterans living on the streets and that’s just not right.”

That’s what this transitional home is helping to solve. One which is now filled with holiday cheer, spread by the hearts of many.

“I think the greatest casualty of war is being forgotten – so this is really beautiful,” added Matascastillo.

More than a sign of the season — it’s a tree of support.

Bill Hudson

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