Ron Siegel, left, Gary Kanowsky and Art Sharf collect donations to help hospitalized, homeless and at-risk vets during a previous poppy drive campaign.

Owen Fabert served in England for 16 months during the Korean War in an anti-aircraft intelligence unit.

“My country does a lot for me, and serving my country didn’t stop when my active duty ended,” said Fabert, 90. He’s been doing volunteer work for as long as he can remember, and that’s what brought him to Jewish War Veterans six months ago.

He’s been a member of the National Exchange Club for nearly 50 years, but he “needed more to do and I needed to do some good.” He was drawn to the mission of Jewish War Veterans, which includes supporting homeless veterans. He joined his local chapter in Sun Lakes: Copper State Post 619.

His second meeting in he found himself volunteering to lead the group’s largest fundraising event in years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the post’s regular fundraising activities. It usually rakes in about $25,000 from its annual poppy sales.

“There was a discussion about how we are going to replace the $25,000, and I hear a voice saying, ‘Well, why don’t we have an online auction,’” Fabert said. The idea was met with great excitement. “I look around to see who this voice is coming from — and it was me. That’s how this whole thing got started.”

JWV Post 619 donates every penny to 501(c)(3) veterans’ organizations. Funds from this auction will be used specifically to help homeless veterans in metro Phoenix.

A recent federal report found the number of homeless veterans in the United States increased from 2019 to 2020. On a single night in January 2020, 37, 252 veterans were experiencing homelessness — an increase of 167 veterans, or 0.4%, from January 2019, according to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report released in March by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Homeless veterans require an array of services to get them back on their feet as productive, contributing citizens. While there are service providers, they are underfunded and need support.

“These people have served our country, they have sacrificed everything they have. We need to bring them back into the community, we need to give them back their dignity — a lot of them don’t even feel human,” Fabert said.

Fabert has helped organize several auctions before but never online. It hasn’t been too steep a learning curve, though, because a vendor will be managing the technological aspects. He’s having fun putting it together and working with post members to collect items for the auction.

More than 60 items will be available, including an autographed Jim McMahon helmet, a commemorative Air Force flight on a WWII plane, a round of golf for four at the Legacy Golf Resort in Tempe, a family membership to the Phoenix Museum of Art, Arizona Theater Company tickets, a Cabo San Lucas getaway, a NASCAR experience and a $500 Walmart gift card. The auction will go live on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 8 a.m. and end Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.

Longtime post-member Nancy Stutman has high hopes for the auction.

“We’re sending fliers out to all of our contacts and organizations and anybody that we know asking them to pass it on to their friends and family, and asking those people then to pass it on,” she said. “If it gets passed on and gets the support of the nation, who knows, it could end up anywhere.”

But whatever ends up happening, it will be more than the post would have raised without it, she said.

Stutman, 83, joined Jewish War Veterans in the 1980s with her husband, Bill, who was stationed in England and served as a captain in the Air Force during WWII. He operated instruments and told bombardiers when to drop bombs. His plane was shot down in Germany near the end of the war, where he was taken prisoner for 7 ½ months.

Even after his passing in 2007, Stutman remained an active member of JWV.

“Having lived with a veteran, with a prisoner of war and just for an appreciation of what they went through, I have just really remained interested in helping veterans,” Stutman said.

Fabert and Stutman have their eyes on a few auction items.

Fabert said he’d love to take the flight on the WWII aircraft and go to Cabo. And there’s a golden diamond necklace that his wife would love.

Stutman has her eye on the theatre tickets, which she said is something that she would buy anyway.

“If there are things that people would use or buy anyway, I hope they bid on the auction items because it’s helping vets,” she said. “If they were going to spend the money anyway, why not spend it to help the veterans?”

The auction site will go live at this link: https://bid123.io/JWV To bid by phone, dial (888) 577-4011 between Oct. 27 at 8 a.m. and Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. JN