News: 'Giving a hand up, not a hand out'
Story by Timothy Hale
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Homeless veterans in the local area may be just a little more comfortable thanks to the efforts of U.S. Army Reserve Command military and civilian employees.
The USARC Chaplain’s Office delivered boxes full of hundreds of sundry items to the Veterans Empowering Veterans organization, Aug. 2, 2012, in downtown Fayetteville.
The V.E.V., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, provides case management and counseling, employment training, housing, and benefit assistance to homeless veterans in Fayetteville and surrounding areas, said Renee Elder, founder and chief executive officer.
Elder, an Army veteran, said donations such as those from USARC are a major part of her operation.
“Our first priority is to meet their needs – their basic needs,” Elder said.
“We give a hand up, not a hand out,” she said. “Veterans Empowering Veterans is all about you empowering yourself to get back into society through training and life skills.”
Elder said the clients she helps must be actively seeking employment. They provide assistance with résumé writing, clothing for job interviews, assistance in finding a safe place to live, food, even babysitting services for clients going to job interviews.
In addition to sundry items, V.E.V. also accepts furniture, clothing, food items, and more to assist those veterans who are trying to help themselves.
Master Sgt. Anthony Pamplin, master chaplain assistant at USARC, said the V.E.V. organization was a natural fit for the Chaplain’s Office collection and donation program.
“We felt there was a need to give back to our community, in particular, our veterans,” Pamplin said.
The USARC collection program is not new for Pamplin. When USARC was at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, he helped organize similar donations for a women’s shelter there.
After a year at Fort Bragg, Pamplin said the time was right to restart the program.
“Veterans Empowering Veterans seemed to really fit what our goal was – to give to our veterans,” Pamplin said. “It wasn’t just giving a hand out. They actually help people with employment and things of that nature.”
Wesley Walker, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has been homeless off and on since 1982, said he discovered V.E.V. by just walking down the street.
“I came inside and asked them what their program was all about,” Walker said. What he found most interesting was the volunteer hours that he could work there.
“I’m a 60 percent disabled veteran. There aren’t many jobs out there for a 60 percent disabled veteran,” he said. Walker said it’s also hard for him to find a job because of a 14-year addiction to crack cocaine but he’s trying to break that with help.
Walker is currently enrolled in the Chemical Addiction Rehabilitation Program through the local Veteran’s Administration clinic. Being active in that program allows him to volunteer at V.E.V., Walker said.
He said that he’s been clean for 66 days but he’s been there before. “I have this 90 day plateau I always reach,” he said. “I think that I’ve got it all covered and all squared away and then I just screw up.”
Walker said that being in his own place helps because it keeps him off the street. Through donations and fundraising, V.E.V. was able to put a permanent roof over his head.
“V.E.V. helped me get in my own place,” Walker said. “I have no stressors when I go home. I go home and I can relax.”
Elder feels it is her duty to help as many veterans like Walker as she can.
“I’ve always helped veterans,” Elder said, recalling times when she assisted veterans while she was a recruiter.
“It is our duty as humans to help someone in need,” she said. “When you help, the Bible tells you, ‘give and it shall be given to you’ … we operate on that principle.”
For more information about the organization, visit their website at http://www.veteransempoweringveterans.org.