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5-26-17

Three local groups join forces to help homeless vets and community member in need of transplant


Live Oak Police Chief Buddy Williams, pictured above, left, working with Christiam Motorcycle Association Members and Mercy Mountain Boys band members to help raise money for Operation Rucksack and a community member in need of a kidney transplant. -SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson


By Gabrielle Stevenson


In the fall of 2016, a local Christian country band called the Mercy Mountain Boys (MMB), based in Lake City, Florida, began a campaign to help local homeless veterans called “Operation Rucksack”. The band saw a need and wanted to do something about it, giving back to those who gave so much in defense of our great nation, protecting our freedoms and preserving liberty. The group puts together rucksacks filled with various items, such as a sleeping bag, MRE meals, deodorant, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, helping homeless veterans with daily needs and issues they may face. Their hope is to continue to give these veterans a helping hand and a step up, showing them people do care. Other items included in the rucksacks are a Bible, a two-person tent, composition book, ink pens, mouthwash, a pair of socks, a pair of gloves, hairbrushes, combs, shaving cream, razors and feminine products for female homeless veterans.


Since its inception, the project has grown steadily and has caught on in other communities, most recently touching the hearts of members of the local Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) and Live Oak Police Chief Alton “Buddy” Williams III and his officers. Mitch Baker, a member of the CMA and a Marine Corps veteran himself, brought the idea for a cookout/barbecue style fundraiser in support of Operation Rucksack to long-time friend and high school classmate, Earl Green. Green is an accomplished vocalist and rhythm guitarist and a founding member of MMB band. Once the band was on board, Baker then presented the idea to Chief Williams, who quickly volunteered to do the cooking for the fundraiser.


Williams explained, “We have a group called ‘Cooking for a Cause’ that cooks for a lot of different things. Mitch (Baker) and I are friends. He put together this idea about cooking for Operation Rucksack. It’s a great cause. There’s a lot of veterans out there and there’s a lot of homeless veterans that need help. Sometimes they don’t know who to look towards.” On May 19, the three groups came together in the center of town in Live Oak, near the city’s post office, to make the fundraising happen and received call after call throughout the day. They served pulled pork sandwich meals and chicken and rice plates.


According to Chief Williams, there were actually two fundraisers happening at the same time for two separate causes. He commented, “We cooked a pot of chicken and rice, which is for a young lady in the community that needs a kidney transplant. So we’ve got two fundraisers going and we’ve got two groups that don’t mind sharing help and labor and everything else because that’s what we’re supposed to do, give back. We started yesterday evening, cooking the pork butts, and then we started cooking the chicken and rice this morning around 7:30 a.m.”


After the success of the fundraiser, Earl Green of MMB said they may turn it into an annual event and hope to see more local businesses and individuals get involved, making a difference in the lives of our service men and women.


Earl thanked Mitch Baker and the CMA for all their help, “We’re indebted to Mitch for coming up with the (fundraiser) idea and wanting to help. They’re (members of the CMA) here today lending a hand to help with deliveries and also for bike blessings.” The group prays over motorcycles for safety, etc. and will do so for any motorcyclist.


The efforts shown by the Live Oak Police Department, the Christian Motorcycle Association and the band members of the Mercy Mountain Boys show what can be accomplished when multiple groups come together for the sake of giving back to the community. Special thanks goes to “Hooked on Heroes” of Live Oak, an organization that takes veterans fishing free of charge, for their support of the fundraiser. To find out more about Operation Rucksack, visit www.mmbband.com.



Mitch Rogers, bassist for the Mercy Mountain Boys band, putting together pulled pork sandwiches for the fundraiser supporting homeless veterans. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson


LOPD Police Chief Buddy Williams stirring a huge pot of chicken and rice. The chicken and rice plates were sold to support a young community member in need of a kidney transplant.
- SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson



Left to Right: Mitch Baker of the Christian Motorcycle Association, Earl Green of the Mercy Mountain Boys and LOPD Police Chief Buddy Williams. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson