State and Local Veteran-Focused Initiatives and Programs

Through helping other veterans as a Vet Corps member it’s almost selfish anyway, because part of the reason I’m doing this is to learn about my wounds. Helping other Vet Corps members helps me because I can learn more about post-traumatic stress. I can learn more about traumatic brain injury. I can learn more about these things so that I cannot only help myself but at the same time help the other people going through it. That’s therapeutic in itself. The best way to learn something is to teach something.”—Timm Lovitt, Washington Veterans Corps Member

State Commissions seeking to start or enhance programs for and with veterans can benefit from the experience of their colleagues around the country. Though each program should address unique community needs and be adapted to local contexts, these examples—along with the section next on the Washington Veterans Corps—provide food for thought and ideas to share with potential partners.

  • California’s Operation Welcome Home—This new statewide campaign seeks to directly connect with the 30,000 veterans who annually return to California after active duty. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger targeted $20 million to create the CalVet Corps of more than 300 veterans who reach out to combat veterans and help ease their transition from the battle front to the home front. An AmeriCorps grant is being used to fund 80 part-time AmeriCorps members who are coordinating efforts with County Veterans Services Officers. As of August 30, 2010, the program had made more than 42,333 referrals to services and benefits, including employment training, health care services, traumatic brain injury/post-traumatic stress disorder counseling, housing, and legal and financial services. For more information, contact Dan Nelan, Deputy Secretary, Operation Welcome Home, 916.651.5038.

  • Nebraska’s At Ease Program—Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska operates the At Ease program, which offers support, trauma treatment, and therapy for active military, veterans, and their loved ones. AmeriCorps members serving in the program, including one who is herself a veteran, recruit mentors for military or veteran families to help them adapt to a new community or adjust to a family member returning from war. They also help veterans with benefits and compensation issues because so many veterans do not know what services and resources are available to them. In 2011, the program will start a weekly support group for veterans with mental illnesses called Vet-to-Vet, in which older veterans will mentor younger ones. Contact Greg Donovan of ServeNebraska at 402.471.6249 or Mikki Chullino of Lutheran Family Services AmeriCorps at 402.346.6100 for more information.

  • Tennessee’s Making Veterans a Priority (MVP)—The MVP AmeriCorps program, operated through the Tennessee Community Assistance Corporation, helps veterans and their families who are homeless or on the verge of losing their homes. Serving within local housing authorities in 16 counties, they connect vets and their families with housing assistance programs; provide financial literacy and budgeting assistance; and help with job search skills such as résumé writing and interviewing techniques. The 14 full- and part-time members also assist with disability and benefit claims; promote community awareness of trauma, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder; and organize programs for children of veterans and military personnel. For more information, contact Shandi Hill (shandi@tcac1.org), AmeriCorps Program Director, 423-586-7636 ext 313

  • West Virginia’s Lifebridge—This countywide model, based in Charleston, focuses on veterans serving other vets. Funded with formula money and administered by United Way, the program has 10 members—all veterans and seven of whom have been homeless and have gone through a transitional program themselves. They work to secure shelter beds and more permanent housing for veterans who are on the streets. They also work through community–based organizations to provide financial, computer, and job-search and workforce skills training. One member, posted at West Virginia State University, helps veterans navigate postsecondary education and encourages them to stay in school. Lifebridge has linked its members to Washington Veterans Corps members in long-distance mentoring relationships to give them extra support in resolving personal challenges so as to serve more effectively. Contact Meghan Shears, Financial Manager, Volunteer West Virginia, at 304.558.0111, ext. 54313.
I volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters . . . I also volunteer to do community activities, which help children in our community . . . I love to see [children] smile and accomplish something that they never thought they would be able to do. Seeing the difference that one person can make to a child’s life has given me the greatest motivation and the strength to keep going. Just knowing that someone out there is counting on me, it means the world to me.”—Sonia Meneses, Army veteran

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