A terminally ill Brownstown veteran whose story raised more than $63,000 to pay for his funeral has found a nonprofit partner to explore ways to help other veterans in need.
Willie Davis, a Navy veteran who was holding garage sales to raise money for his funeral costs this summer, ended up receiving an outpouring of support from across the nation after two Johnstown area men started a GoFundMe page in his name.
Davis lives in Browns-town but said he’s finalizing plans to have a funeral in Johnstown after he passes and then be transported to Culpeper, Va so he can be laid to rest alongside his parents, his dying wish.
He is now turning his attention to helping other local veterans in need, he said Thursday.
Davis and Tom Caulfield, director of Veterans Community Initiatives, said they are discussing ways leftover funds could be used to support other struggling vets in Davis’ memory.
“Willie’s story is tragic, but the way people have responded to it is amazing ... and because of that, his story might have a positive ending,” Caulfield said.
Caulfield said he’s known Davis for years and plans to sit down again with him later this month to help him finalize a plan.
VCI, Inc. has operated as a 501(c)3 charity in the region since 1993.
Whatever Davis decides, it won’t be hard to find veterans in the Cambria County area who, unfortunately, are nearing their final days and are struggling financially, Caulfield added.
“What he wants to do is very much within VCI’s objective and mission, so whatever we can do to help, we’ll do it,” he said.
Davis, 66, said he hasn’t decided exactly how he’ll do that, whether it involves a legacy fund or another route, but he said he has a desire to return the powerful act of kindness the community – and country – has given to him.
Donations ranging from $1 to $1,000 have been collected from well-wishers across the country over the past month since Johnstown residents Ed Sheets and David Dunkelberger set up his fundraising page and shared his story with news outlets.
“I don’t know how long I’ve got left ... but if I can help people, I will,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always lived my life.”