Master Sgt. Douglas McGraw and Master Sgt. Victor Mercado, 56th EMS, and Frank Sova, retired Army sergeant, talk about the veterans’ community. The Veterans in Progress work re-entry program has an 80 percent success rate in helping veterans return to the workplace, with more than 1,000 gaining full-time employment every year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Marcy Copeland)
Members from Luke Air Force Base tour the Victory Place III veteran community in Phoenix. U.S. Veterans Initiative, in partnership with Cloudbreak Communities, provide supportive and case management services to about 30 veterans in the long term supportive housing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Marcy Copeland)
John Scott II, U.S. Veterans Initiative executive director, talks about the organization and what it does for at-risk and homeless veterans March 27 at the headquarters in Phoenix. The U.S. VETS organization provides counseling, long or short-term housing and aid in finding work. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Marcy Copeland)
by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/4/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Hope can come in many forms, but for veterans in need, hope can be a simple business suit and a tie.
The 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, supported by the 56th Fighter Wing Chapel, held a clothing drive for the U.S. Veterans Initiative nonprofit organization in Phoenix that offers aid to veterans who are either homeless, at risk of being homeless or unemployed.
"This is my fourth time donating, and it's nice to see the center has actually developed quite a bit from the first time I was there," said Master Sgt.Douglas McGraw, 56th EMS programs flight chief. "I get a hopeful feeling for the veterans and for the U.S. VETS center itself. They are doing things right and getting results, which are what we all want."
Approximately 530 articles of clothing were donated to the organization. The donations included standard clothing items such as jeans and shirts, but a large portion was business attire for men and women.
"It just warmed my heart," said Master Sgt. Victor Mercado, 56th EMS product superintendent, "knowing the caring people on base who donated belongings they no longer use will go to good use to help these veterans get on their feet and hopefully land them a job and get their lives back in order."
The goal of U.S. VETS is to successfully transition veterans and their families to a civilian life with the support of counselors, housing opportunities and career development.
The Phoenix location began its services to veterans in October 2001. One of two locations in Arizona, it serves an estimated 175 to 200 veterans each day providing counseling, food and low-cost short or long-term supportive housing provided by Cloudbreak Communities. A computer room is available to aid with job searches and donated clothes provide a professional look that may help these veterans obtain a job.
"For me, the biggest thing was learning more about the organization," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ted Wilson, 56th FW Chapel. "It's more than just donating clothes. It's what this organization does and how they go about helping the veterans in the community. This particular organization, it's not just a free hand-out. There is accountability - things these men and women have to do. They have to pay some sort of rent; they have to pay some for food as well, so it's not an absolute free hand-out here."
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are an estimated 57,849 homeless veterans on any given night. These homeless men and women have served in World War II and operations in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Southwest Asia, Grenada, Panama and Lebanon, and in military counter-drug efforts in South America.
These men and women may have served alongside many current active-duty, Reserve or Guard members. They are part of the one percent who raised their hand to help defend this country.
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