Boxes full of yellow bananas from Guatemala. Crates containing auto supplies, including hoods, windshields, and shock absorbers. Pallets full of office furniture, including chairs and filing cabinets.
All those items were among the hundreds of boxes, cartons, crates, and pallets of unclaimed cargo that were on sale Saturday in Doral.
The first annual public clearance sale of unclaimed cargo was held at J.C. Bermudez Park, 3000 NW 87 Ave., and benefited military veterans.
The Florida Veterans Foundation staged the sale in collaboration with South Florida customs brokers, freight forwarders, importers, and exporters as well as the cities of Doral and Miami and Miami-Dade Commissioner José “Pepe” Díaz to finance projects for veterans.
Assistance to veterans, particularly those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is considered extremely important because many are facing extreme hardship and stress.
Last Thursday, volunteers set up 1,892 American flags in the grass of the National Mall in Washington to represent the number of soldiers who have committed suicide since Jan. 1. The number translates into 22 suicides per day.
Many of the suicides are blamed on stress caused not only by exposure to combat but also because of a lack of enough financial and medical support and care after the veterans leave the armed forces.
“The foundation helps veterans in financial crisis,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Antonio “Mico” Colmenares, director of the Florida Veterans Foundation and director of the City of Miami Veterans Services office. “If they have a payment that they need to make, a light bill, a water bill, they can go to Florida Veterans Foundation and get a grant for that.”
The foundation also assists veterans with medical care the Veterans Administration may not be able to provide, said Colmenares.
“We also help homeless veterans,” added Colmenares. “We wrap around all these different services to try to get them out of homelessness.”
Another Florida Veterans Foundation program helps veterans find jobs.
“We are losing way too many veterans every day,” said Colmenares. “Twenty-two a day. More than 40 percent of those coming back from wars have some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
One of the veterans the foundation helped was Robert Butler, who served 2 ½ years in Iraq. He had a shaved-ice truck at the sale grounds.
“I got here at 10 o’clock this morning and this field was full and an hour and a half later, people are buying truckloads of stuff,” said Butler.
Yadira Pedraza and her daughter Veronica tried on hats they were pulling out of boxes containing hundreds of hats. They were also eying pallets full of military meals ready to eat. “Those would be good for hurricane preparedness,” she said.
Another customer was Alberto Cardosa Cardosa, who bought thousands of dollars worth of auto parts.
“I bought a lot of things that I will never be able to resell, but I bought them to help the veterans,” he said.