GORHAM, Maine — After serving their country, many veterans in Maine somehow end up living on the streets. 

When those former service members finally get a roof over their heads, they often have little to start over with. For more than 10 years, volunteers with the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance have crossed the state setting up "forever homes" for veterans getting off the streets.

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But volunteers are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for help. 

After being on a waiting list for months, Army veteran Sandy Hycuna was overjoyed to move into a new apartment, located in a senior housing complex in Gorham. Hycuna, who spent time living in her jeep with her two dogs Max and Titus, was starting over nearly from scratch. So at first, that meant sleeping on the floor. 

"We're veterans. We know how to go without you know?" Hycuna added.

But her apartment didn't stay bare very long. Volunteers with the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance delivered a new mattress, furniture, a kitchen table, dishware, and other items.

Kevin Nicholson is the driving force behind those deliveries. As chairman of the nonprofit, the Navy veteran collects used and new furniture, clothing, and hygiene kits. Maine businesses and community groups donate the majority of them. 

MHVA has helped more than 300 veterans since it was founded in 2012. Nicholson is on the road nearly every day from Kittery to northern Maine, picking up donated furniture and delivering the items as veterans move from the streets into their "forever homes."

"Everything we can to fill up an apartment, so that veteran feels like he is back home again," Nicholson explained. 

One of the projects under the MHVA, "It Takes a Village 207," is holding an online auction during the first 10 days of March. 

There will also be a bowling fundraiser 'Bowl For A Cause' on March 3 at Archie's Spike & Spare Candlepin Bowling from 5-8 pm in Kezar Falls. The money raised will go to help purchase a box truck to make larger deliveries and replace a 21-year-old van that has more than 230,000 miles.

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"The whole front end fell out of this thing already," Nicholson added.

There is also a GoFundMe account with a goal of 200,000 dollars. 

Some of the funds will also go to possibly renting a warehouse to store donated items and support "It Takes a Village 207."  Another project under the MHVA is No Bowl Empty 2 Pet Food Pantry which distributes donated pet food and supplies to veterans and the less fortunate.  

"It Takes A Village 207" was founded by Journey Ramsey and her daughter Becca. Through social media, volunteers collect donated items and funds to help veterans and their families recover. But volunteers are running out of space. 

"Someone dropped off 15 boxes of donations yesterday, my whole living room is full, and my daughter's living room is full," Ramsey said. 

Nicholson and other volunteers delivered furniture, mattresses, and kitchen supplies to six veterans living in the same housing complex as Hycuna. But he said as the need continues to rise, this is just scratching the surface. As for Hycuna, she will never forget the kindness of others. 

"They stood by you, I owe them my life as far as I am concerned. So I am touched," she said.

For more information contact Kevin Nicholson, Board Member and Chair of MHVA, at knicholson@mainehva.org, 207-228-4936.

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