Veteran at front lines of helping homeless

Veteran at front lines of helping homeless

Triple cancer survivor, veteran and volunteer firefighter seeks to give back to community

Albert Statton, above, stands in his gear as a Greenlawn firefighter. Photo from Statton

A Greenlawn volunteer firefighter, Army veteran and three-time cancer survivor has faced many battles in his life, but now he is fighting a different kind of battle.

Albert Statton, 64, created the Operation Enduring Care project at the Greenlawn Fire Department to collect food and clothing donations to help people who need immediate assistance and “offer them some type of comfort.” All of the donations collected will be given to The Salvation Army-managed homeless shelter at the Northport VA Affairs Medical Center.

Statton was drafted into the military in 1970 and served as a combat medic in Germany, Asia and across the United States. He finished his last tour of duty in the late 1990s but returned to his roots when he received treatment at the Northport VA after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. He found solace in dropping off items at the shelter on his way to chemotherapy.

“When being treated, it’s a physical and a mental battle,” Statton said in a phone interview. “I had highs and lows. I tried to make it a positive by bringing donations to shelter, so instead of going for me I was helping someone.”

He said the shelter for homeless veterans gets as many as 60 families a week that ask for assistance, especially during the holiday season.

Statton’s desire to help others is something he said he learned as a firefighter.

“You never say, ‘I was a firefighter.’ I am a firefighter and the things I have learned are ingrained in me forever.”

He said the volunteers at Greenlawn took his sick father to the hospital more than 20 times, so afterward he wanted to make a donation to the department to say thank you.

“I realized I didn’t have enough money to repay a debt like that,” Statton said. “I wanted to give back to the community the same way they did to my father.”

Statton served his community proudly until he was diagnosed with cancer.

He is impressed with the level of dedication all of the volunteers at Greenlawn bring to their work and how much they learned about the rescue system.

“So many people take the time to raise the bar on what’s available for the community,” Statton said.

He credits his cancer recovery to the members of the fire department for their inspiration and good wishes while he was sick, and their visits to his bedside at the hospital to pray with him.

One story in particular stands out in his mind: Statton, in the hospital, was once so battered by his treatment that he stopped breathing, and he found out later that at that same moment his comrades had begun a prayer group for him. He regained his ability to breathe minutes later.

“I had a very supportive network of brothers and sisters that encouraged me to persevere,” he said. “My respect and my love goes very deep for the fire department.”

Donations to support Statton’s effort to give back to local veterans can be dropped off at 23 Boulevard Ave. in Greenlawn. Statton said canned meats and vegetables are in high demand, as well as packaged undergarments and socks.

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