Vets4Vets secures $432,000 grant

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By DC Duncan and Roy Melius
Special to The SUN

Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County has obtained a grant in the sum of $432,000 specifically earmarked for much-needed readjustment therapy and will be doled out at $108,000 a year for the next four fiscal years.

Archuleta County is the only county in Colorado and New Mexico to have obtained such a grant, and to receive a sum this large is both rare and rewarding.

The Pueblo Vet Center has hired four local therapists for Vets4Vets who will see veterans from Archuleta and four surrounding counties. Those therapists include Gary T. Hannemann, Sam Conti, Codie Wilson and Kathleen L. Allen.

Hannemann said, “It’s an honor to be working for the veterans and that is echoed by all the therapists. I started work (for Vets4Vets) three months ago, but it took the first one and a half months to get things operational. Now, it’s running smoothly.”

Conti added, “My father, brother, uncles and several nephews all have served in one conflict or another, so it is very gratifying to be working with our veterans.”

The Colorado VA does not have the funds to set up vet centers (centers for the treatment of combat vets) in rural areas such as Pagosa Springs, hence the grant. The Pueblo Vet Center certifies local therapists to fill the expanding needs of readjustment therapy for local combat veterans. Vets have a choice of confidential individual counseling or group therapy, and soon there will be a spousal/family program available. All potential clients must be vetted through the Pueblo Vet Center. To sign up for therapy, please call Vets4Vets at 799-VETS (8387) or call Rudy Sandoval at the Vet Center in Pueblo at (719) 583-4058.

The acquisition of the grant took much persistence and hard bargaining in Denver and Washington by members of the Vets4Vets team and was three years in the making. The grant went into effect in October and everything is up and running.

In other Veterans for Veterans news, The Four Corners Stand Down for veterans took place Saturday, Nov. 15, in Durango at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. The event was sponsored by Veterans for Veterans of Archuleta County, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, Disabled American Vets and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

There were a multitude of volunteers involved in the myriad activities, hosting tables, sponsoring and donating to the worthy cause. Services included help with VA benefits, VA enrollment, VA medical, VA mental health, military records, housing assistance, employment and income taxes. Other on-site services included hot meals, showers, haircuts, clothing, hygiene supplies, homelessness resources, legal assistance and medical care. (Rides were provided on request.)

Vets4Vets secured another grant in July of this year for $25,000, which is being spent on homeless vets in the area.

At the the Stand Down, $4,680 was spent to help or place 14 homeless vets from southwest Colorado. Each vet received either a room at a motel or at emergency shelters with Volunteers for America for one month — enough time to hopefully find permanent residence. In October, Vets4Vets spent $3,292 for homeless vets.

Vets4Vets also helps find jobs for fellow veterans out of work, and they are proud to announce that there are, at present, no jobless veterans in their oversight in Archuleta County. They work hand in hand with other organizations such as HUD-VASH (Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Program), Work Force Center, Crossfire Construction, Parelli Natural Horsemanship and Volunteers of America to get vets down on their luck back into the workforce.

Veterans are eligible for benefits (including therapy) for having served in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf and Somalia. All veterans from every era are welcome.

Every dollar raised through donations, garage sales, the golf tournament and grants goes to vets in need.

If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD or any number of combat related injuries, call 799-VETS (8387) for help.

Vets4Vets meets weekly at the Quality Resort, 3505 U.S. 160, every Tuesday at 10 a.m. for coffee and conversation.