Wisconsin’s East Central Chapter Lends Hand to Veterans Assistance Program

Before

After

The Red Cross was founded on principles of supporting the military and their families, including veterans. Whether it be communications or emergency services, the military has found it can count on the Red Cross.There are many times when the Red Cross can say it has assisted the military or service men and women but rarely do we get to see the before and after of the efforts so clearly as we do with this latest effort to help veterans as with these pictures. When we here at the Lakeland Chapter saw what Wisconsin’s East Central Chapter had done for the Veteran’s Assistance Program in King, WI, we had to stop and say nicely done.

The room pictured is at the Veteran’s Assistance Center located at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in King, WI. Because of the good relationship the Red Cross Waupaca office has with the facility, they were able to brainstorm with the facility’s staff to find a meaningful way to help. They took the dire room you see in the first picture and made it the comfortable, hopeful place you see in the second. It all started with an application for a grant and collaboration with the staff at the facility to see what the needs were.

The Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP) in 1994. It helps homeless veterans and those at-risk of becoming homeless receive the job training, education, counseling and rehabilitative services (such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment) they need to obtain steady employment, affordable housing and the skills to sustain a productive lifestyle.

“I was shocked when I went in there the first time,” says Paul Fruit, an Americorps member with the Red Cross . The room and donated furnishings were in a dilapidated state. “And it wasn’t going to change based on the funding they had.”

The average stay for veterans assisted by the program is 2 years so they think of it as their home. “They have given their time of service and they come back to something like that. Its nice to spruce it up a bit,” says Paul.

In October 2009 the local chapter received word from the National Red Cross that they received the grant and then work began.  The pictures say a lot but amazingly don’t tell the full story of transformation. Volunteers removed the old furniture and painted. The room also got new air conditioners and lighting plus a new laptop for the residents to use.  Final touches were made and pictures were hung for the project to be complete in March, 2010.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Veteran’s Affairs website the philosophy of the Veteran’s Assistance program is simple, “vets helping vets; a one-stop shop to access needed services; a structured environment with long days and hard work to rekindle the pride and confidence these men and women once used to defend our nation.”

This room is a more comfortable place to stop after a hard day’s work of rekindling pride and confidence all because of some hardworking people who saw a need and filled it.

Paul says no one who worked on the project saw it as a struggle or chore but as something that should be done. “I don’t think it was going to change and we had the opportunity to change it.”

 

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