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Lend a hand to veterans

When he decided to turn the El Dorado Bar & Grill's annual customer appreciation event into a fundraiser, Todd Pfeffer didn't need to look far for inspiration.

The Gary New Duluth native's family tree is a mosaic of military service. His father served in World War II, his oldest brother served in the National Guard. He has two sons who have served in the U.S. military.

Veterans, he said, are "near and dear to me."

The El Dorado Bar's fifth annual fundraiser for homeless veterans, and those in need, takes place starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at the bar, 2110 E. Union St., Oliver. It will include a horseshoe tournament starting at noon, free pig roast with all the fixings at 5 p.m., silent auction and memorial walk.

Money raised at the annual event have traditionally been earmarked for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. This year's proceeds, Pfeffer said, will be split between Douglas County's Veterans Service Office and MAC-V.

The need is there.

On a January night in 2016, a count of the homeless in Wisconsin included 534 veterans, according to HUD statistics.

"Why are they homeless?" Pfeffer asked. "Why don't they have what they're supposed to have? They put their lives on the line."

The issue became more critical this month when federal officials made the decision to defund a grant program that provides housing for homeless veterans at two of Wisconsin's three veterans homes.

El Dorado Bar & Grill hosts weekly Wednesday meat raffles and monthly bingo games to raise additional money for MAC-V and Douglas County. Last year, the Oliver bar donated $26,000 to area veterans, including $8,000 from the annual pig roast.

This is the second year the 1-mile Walk for the Fallen will be part of the event. Beginning at 10 a.m., participants will walk to nearby Matthew Pionk Memorial Park, named after an Oliver native who was killed serving in Iraq.

"He was a very good young man," Pfeffer said, and his death was a big loss to the community.

The walk will include an Honor Guard presentation, the National Anthem, a prayer and a chance to network with others.

Pfeffer is still seeking silent auction prizes for the event, and he'd love to see the parking lot fill up Saturday with cars bearing an equal number of Wisconsin and Minnesota plates.

"Veterans don't have borders," Pfeffer said.

He encouraged other bars and restaurants to take up the fight against veteran homelessness.

"Let's stamp this out," he said.

For more information or to donate an item, call (715) 392-3717, (218) 590-1917, email or visit the business' Facebook page.