Brothers and Sisters of National Exchange Club,

As sickening as it is, it’s easy for us to envision a homeless veteran sleeping in his car this winter, shivering, literally trying to shake off the cold. But that cold cannot be shaken off because it has burrowed into the very marrow of his bones.

What’s not as easy to imagine is his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter in the back seat, both snuggled against their mother, a mother desperately trying to use her body heat to warm her shivering children, who are also trying to shake off that same cold. But they cannot because that bone chilling cold has now burrowed deeply into their little bones.

Take that in. Please.

Now imagine that same father and mother going into their children’s warm rooms at night, tucking them in, even telling them a bedtime story before turning off the lights, leaving on a nightlight to comfort the children as they sink into their own pillows, in their own home.

Now imagine that you had the “Power of 1” to help that veteran family have that home. Because YOU do. You have the Power of 1 to save and change lives. We all do. But do we choose to use it for good? This is what defines our humanity.

Just more than 100 days ago, at Exchange’s National Convention in Columbus, OH, I talked about that incredible Power of 1 to give. And that YOU are the most powerful leader you know.

The Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs joined to host a USO-style dance, silent auction and chili cookoff in Toledo on 11/11@7.

Toledo, OH: The Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs joined to host a USO-style dance, silent auction and chili cookoff in Toledo on 11/11@7.

I told each Exchangite in the room that his or her Power of 1 is intertwined with each other to create the “Power of 1 Club,” which intertwined creates the “Power of 1 Community,” which intertwined creates the National Exchange Club, which is indivisibly intertwined as One Nation Under God.

Just more than 100 days ago at the convention, National Exchange Club and Veterans Matters presented a partnership and our goal to house as many homeless veterans as possible over the course of one year. With Veterans Day as the catalyst, and “11/11@7” as the catchy event name, we asked Exchange Clubs to host simultaneous events to raise money to help house America’s homeless heroes.

Rally_ExchangeClub of OKC 2

Oklahoma City, OK: The Exchange Club of Oklahoma City hosted a 50/50 raffle for 11/11@7.

As I write this, in the aftermath of the 11/11@7 events, I am beaming with pride at what we have accomplished. At least 80 clubs nationwide took up the daunting challenge to pull off inaugural 11/11@7 events. That’s the definition of #ExchangeStrong.

We have not yet heard many of the final fundraising results, but much press coverage was generated, which does offer a glimpse of how successful these events were:

Toledo, OH: “11/11@7 benefits homeless veterans across the country,” The (Toledo) Blade, Nov. 12, 2015

Murfreesboro, TN: “Noon Exchange Raises $ For Homes for Homeless Vets,” WGNS News Radio, Nov. 11, 2015

Oklahoma City, OK: “OKC Exchange, Vets Matter Team Up To End Homelessness,” KWTV News 9, Nov. 11, 2015

We do know that here in Toledo, the Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay and Maumee Exchange Clubs united to create our hometown 11/11@7 event, which raised more than $7,500, not including “War Bond” orders that will be sent in.

Some of the Murfreesboro Fire Department firefighters who participated in the chili cookoff hosted by the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN, on 11/11@7.

Murfreesboro, TN: Some of the Murfreesboro Fire Department firefighters who participated in the chili cookoff hosted by the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN, on 11/11@7.

As exciting as these events were, and as proud as we should all be, there are still veterans and families to be housed! I graciously ask you to continue utilizing the online team fundraising tool at https://www.firstgiving.com/1Matters/teams throughout the next year and we will continue working toward our goal of housing America’s heroes. If you would prefer, direct payments can also be made to the area of greatest need at veteransmatter.org/donate or by mailing a check to our office.

We will continue to share updates as we receive them. Additionally, we will be recognizing the top ten small, medium, and large fundraising clubs at Exchange’s 2016 National Convention in Houston, TX. So, keep raising funds, to raise their standard of living!

I, once again, thank you all! I take off my hat and bow to you in gratitude. You are heroes to me!

Onward. Homeward.

Ken Leslie

Founder, Veterans Matter

PS Below are just a few of the reports from Exchange Clubs across the nation who hosted 11/11@7 events. Click here for a Facebook album of more photos and reports from 11/11@7 events across the nation. What did we miss? We’d love to hear more stories and see more photos! Click the “Contact us” link to call or email us, or reach out via Facebook or Twitter to share information from your club. Thank you for helping us #GetVetsHoused!

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11/11@7 RALLY REPORTS

A display about Veterans Matter at Culver's in Findlay, Ohio.

Findlay, OH: A display about Veterans Matter at Culver’s in Findlay, Ohio.

Toledo, Ohio: The Exchange Clubs of Toledo, West Toledo, Greater Maumee Bay, and Maumee together with Veterans Matter, and with support of the Lucas County Commissioners and Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, hosted the first ever “11/11@7” event to raise money to house local homeless veterans. Nearly $7,500 was generated through the two-hour USO-style event, held at the Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Hall, which featured a chili cook-off, a silent auction, and live music provided by Toledo duo Candice Coleman and Chris Brown.

Perrysburg, Ohio: The Exchange Club of Perrysburg partnered with two area Bob Evans restaurants to donate a portion of proceeds to Veterans Matters on Veterans Day.

Findlay, Ohio: Vicki and Randy Stone of the Findlay Exchange Club placed 10 donation centers around area businesses in the community to raise funds and awareness for Veterans Matter, including Culver’s (pictured here).

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: The Exchange Club of Oklahoma City hosted a 50/50 raffle for 11/11@7. The club reports: “Between online donations and the rally we made $1,505 — enough to re-house two veterans! We exceeded our fundraising goal be 201% We will be donating 100% of the money collected to Veterans Matter to help eliminate our veteran homeless population in Oklahoma. A big thank you to all our sponsors who helped make this donation possible. Two homeless veterans will be on their way to new housing because of our local community and supporters.”

State Senators Jim Tracy, left, and Bill Ketron were enjoying the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN's 11/11@7 chili cookoff to help homeless veterans. Ketron is a past president of the Murfreesboro Noon Exchange Club and was formerly the Past National President of Exchange. Photo Courtesy News Radio WGNS

Murfreesboro, TN: State Senators Jim Tracy, left, and Bill Ketron were enjoying the Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro, TN’s 11/11@7 chili cookoff to help homeless veterans. Ketron is a past president of the Murfreesboro Noon Exchange Club and was formerly the Past National President of Exchange. Photo Courtesy News Radio WGNS

Houston, Texas: Several Exchange Clubs in Houston, including the Memorial Exchange Club and the Downtown Exchange Club, collaborated to organize an 11/11@7 fundraiser through Luby’s, in which the restaurant donated 15% of sale on Veterans Day to Veterans Matter for patrons who came in with a flier. Barbara Sarko Carmichael of the Downtown Exchange Club of Houston reported club members handed out over 1,000 fliers to people and groups in Houston, including at city hall. In addition, Carmichael said she is “happy to report that we have raised $2,275 from both online and in-house donations (at weekly club luncheons). Our goal to help house three veterans by 11/11/15 has been met. We have also raised some funds through Luby’s 15% donations for dining on 11/11 in Houston. This amount is not included in our total. We will begin working on our next VM fundraiser that we hope to have by the middle of 2016. We are also hoping for one at the end of 2016. Texas takes care of its own!” The Memorial Exchange Club in Houston hosted an 11/11@7 reception

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: The Noon Exchange Club of Murfreesboro hosted a chili cookoff with chili by the Murfreesboro Fire Department.

Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. "He wasn't able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit," said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. Thank you for your service, Sandon! Photo Courtesy Maureen Cole Tobin

Lincoln Park, MI: Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. “He wasn’t able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit,” said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. Thank you for your service, Sandon! Photo Courtesy Maureen Cole Tobin

Jackson, Tennessee: On Facebook, Martin Jelinek noted: “Great event for an amazing cause! Glad to be part of a club that cares and does something for the people that fought and fight to keep us free. #ExchangeStrong”

North Tonawanda, N.Y.: The Erie-Niagara Sunrise Exchange Club hosted an 11/11@7 event at the Stephen Sikora Post 1322 members in North Tonawanda, NY, featuring a basket raffle.

Jacksonville, Florida: The Exchange Club of Jacksonville organized an 11/11@7 fundraiser with three area Bruster’s. $1 of each waffle cone sold on Veterans Day was donated to Veterans Matter.

Lincoln Park, Michigan: Lincoln Park Exchange Club members brought a photo of Sandon Elkins, a club member on active military duty to their 11/11@7 event. “He wasn’t able to attend so we brought his picture so he was there in spirit,” said club member Maureen Cole Tobin. The club is still totaling donations, but has raised about $9,000!

Naugatuck, Connecticut: The Naugatuck Exchange Club kicked off its Find a Home for Veterans campaign on 11/11@7. The club reports: “We enjoyed a good turnout of veterans, dignitaries, club members and the general public at Jesse Camille’s restaurant. George Gray planned and organized the event and the ongoing project. Thank you George!! Great kick off! Thanks to all that attended and who have donated to help reach our goal to house a vet. Exchange Club is the root, but there are so many branches out there assisting us which is so appreciated.”