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Pet beds will be sold at The Commons in Collegedale Saturday, April 6 to benefit A Soldier's Journey Home and the nonprofit organization's construction of a home for a local wounded veteran. (Photo contributed by David Barto)

Locals can help keep their furry family members warm and cozy while doing the same for a wounded veteran through an upcoming fundraiser. On Saturday, April 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., pet beds and blankets will be sold at Collegedale Commons to benefit the construction of a home for Lance Cpl. Alex Edwards in nearby McDonald, Tennessee.

The fundraiser is the brainchild of East Brainerd resident Ed Herring who, after 45 years in the textile industry, said he wanted to spend his retirement giving back to the community.

To honor his father, who served in the Philippines during World War II, and his brother, who served six years in Vietnam, Herring decided to do something to benefit veterans.

Through Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, he learned of A Soldier's Journey Home, a Hixson-based nonprofit founded by first responders from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. A Soldier's Journey Home builds mortgage-free homes for veterans in need by using the labor of volunteers, many of whom are veterans themselves.

The volunteers come from 14 states, from Minnesota to Boston to Florida and Texas. Two of the organization's seven board members are Chattanooga firefighters, said Paddy Neville, president of A Soldier's Journey Home and retired lieutenant for the New York City Fire Department.

"Every penny that is raised goes to veterans," Neville said, adding that the organization has no employees, and volunteers working on a build pay their own expenses or stay in rooms donated by hotel chains.

In May, volunteers will convene in McDonald to build a home for Edwards, a Marine who, just a month after being deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, was injured when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

He was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries, which included spine and nerve damage and permanent hearing loss.

Funds raised through the pet bed sale will go toward the cost of building Edwards' home, along with others that will be built for area veterans in the future, said Herring. The amount of money put into each build is at least $100,000, Neville said.

"I wanted to do something for our veterans, who never seem to get enough recognition," said Herring, as to why he organized the fundraiser.

He said the pet beds are of premium quality, are made in the United States and embroidered locally, and will be available at the fundraiser for 25 percent less than the retail cost. Beds are available in three sizes, for $40, $60 and $120 apiece. Blankets are also available in three sizes, at about a 15 percent discount off retail price, said Herring.

"These products are not only attractive, they're highly useful," he said, adding that the pet bed covers can be removed to clean.

People without pets to buy for can change that at the fundraiser, where the Humane Educational Society will be holding a dog adoption event simultaneously. Purchasers will have the option to donate a portion of the proceeds from their purchase to the society.

If all goes well, Herring said he plans to continue to hold similar fundraisers at The Commons in the future.

Collegedale Commons is at 4950 Swinyar Drive and can be reached at 664-3022. To learn more about A Soldier's Journey Home, visit asoldiersjourneyhome.org.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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