Beer festival benefits injured vets

The second annual Freedom Fest Craft Beer Festival was held on June 18, hosting stands of beer, food, raffle tickets, crafts, and attracting crowds of people to Veteran’s Memorial Park in Shelton.

The festival benefited the nonprofit organization Building Homes for Heroes, which builds and modifies homes for injured veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We went to [veteran organizations] first and said, ‘who would you guys recommend?’” said Derek Signore, one of the founders of Valiant in the Valley, which hosted the event. “And [Building Homes for Heroes] were at the top of pretty much everyone's list.”

The organization gives the modified or new homes to the veterans and their families mortgage- free. The group aims to build 36 homes this year around the country.

“We also have a financial assistance program where a financial officer is assigned to a veteran to help manage their budget,” said Jazmine Jean-Francois, the sales and sponsorship representative.

Along with Jean-Francois at the festival, Gunnery Sgt. Chris Claude sat at the Building Homes for Heroes booth with his wife Shirley and their young daughter Genevieve, who was busy coloring.

He is one of the recent veterans to work with the organization and will later be receiving a modified home close to his in Pennsylvania.

“Wounded veterans in general want to maintain as much of their independence as possible,” said Shirley.

Claude is a veteran from the Marine Corps, serving from 1998 to 2007. He was severely injured from an enemy attack in Iraq on Feb. 20, 2006.

"[Building Homes for Heroes] are really there every step of the way just to help you along and get you back to where you are completely independant again,” said Claude. “And I don't have to worry about as I age in my home, how am I going to do this."

The Freedom Fest will be held again next summer.

"I think it's fantastic, I think it's a great event,” said Kevin Pjatak, who brought in military trucks for the festival. “I was at the one last year and I'll be at the one next year."