QUINCY -- Honoring veterans for their service is one of the ways Marcel Wagner, Jr. finds Heroes at Heartland important in the region.
"It also gives them and their families a day to go out and just have an enjoyable time," Wagner said.
The event returns for its third year Aug. 3 at Harpole's Heartland Lodge in Nebo. It offers various outdoor activities, including side-by-side rides, archery and trap shooting. A picnic lunch also is provided to the veterans and their families.
Wagner, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, spoke Friday at the Heroes for the Heartland kickoff at Outdoor Power Inc, 2703 Broadway.
He mentioned that veterans who attend can join the veterans database developed by GREDF in conjunction with The Herald-Whig and WGEM's We Salute You campaign. The database allows area veterans to be informed of area job fairs and job openings.
"We started this a couple years ago as a way to connect with our younger veterans, because our companies want to hire them," Wagner said. "They want them to come to work for them, and there was not a great database of those folks. So we started this is a way to do that, and it's kind of taken on a life of its own."
Heroes at Heartland is free to attend for veterans, active duty personnel and their families, but registration is required.
More than 200 veterans, military personnel and their families participated in the event in 2018, as did more than 100 volunteers, including 48 side-by-side owners who donated their vehicles and their time.
Registration to participate in activities or as volunteer for the event can be completed at heroesatheartland.us.
Proceeds from the event are distributed to Great River Honor Flight and Tri-State Warrior Outreach.
Barry Cheyne of Great River Honor Flight said 31 veterans will be taking part in the 54th Honor Flight Saturday.
"That trip is totally paid for through the last two years of efforts from Heroes at Heartland, Mr. (Gary) Harpole and everyone and all the organizations that support this great effort," he said.
Great River Honor Flight has taken more than 1,750 veterans to Washington, D.C., to see memorials and monuments
Glenn Swick of Tri-State Warrior Outreach said the proceeds support veterans who have found themselves in a tight spot.
"Since 2012, we've been able to give about $25,000 to local veterans to help them out," Swick said. "Everything from utilities, clothing, food, just things to get them buy. We're very blessed to have organizations like this to help fund that."
Local sponsors for Heroes at Heartland include Sisbro Transportation, HOMEBANK, Titan International, Quincy Recycle, Quincy Medical Group, Wispak, Pepsi, Farm and Home Supply, All Phase Property Solutions, Cakes by Karen Klingner and Associations, the Great River Corvette Club, the Boy Scouts of America Mississippi Valley Council, The Herald-Whig and WGEM.
"Everybody we've asked has just stepped up and said, 'What can I do?'" Wagner said.