This all-volunteer, grassroots organization strives to help homeless vets gain control over their lives and circumstances. Emmaus for Veterans is supported by Stop & Shop through its Community Bag Program.
Tell us about the Emmaus for Veterans.
Our organization started in 2008 and became a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2012. We assist veterans in need who have been devastated by the effects of war, and we also provide support to their families.
The primary focus of Emmaus for Veterans is to help homeless vets gain control over their lives and circumstances and become productive members of society. Today, over 400,000 homeless veterans are in this country; it’s an epidemic.
Emmaus for Veterans believes every veteran deserves a success story, and we provide support to try to make that happen. Our devotion to our mission comes from being in these individuals’ shoes. Many of us were headed down the wrong path before turning our lives around.
We are an all-volunteer organization; no one here gets paid. The proceeds from every donation and fundraiser go right back to the veterans.
What services do you supply to the community?
We provide funds and support to veterans in need and their families within our community. We are here to help our vets with whatever is required to get back on their feet.
The services we deliver include providing vocational training for homeless vets, providing physiological and emotional support, and informing and assisting veterans and their families in obtaining the benefits to which they are entitled.
For example, the widows of veterans often need help obtaining benefits, including pensions due from their spouse’s service. Our organization assists in this process, which can be costly. Since we find many of these widows are living on minimal income, they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the expense involved.
We also provide veterans with clothing, tools and transportation to get back and forth from school and work. Recently a veteran from a shelter got a job, but he didn’t have the proper tools required. With the help of our organization, he was able to purchase what he needed to start his new career. We are always ready to do whatever is required to help our vets. Their success is our number one goal.
We are always ready to do whatever is required to help our vets. Their success is our number one goal.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
We are not afraid to take on a challenge and try our best never to say no to a request. Many individuals we work with suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is one of the more challenging aspects of what we do.
Our newest project is buying a local farm to house our veterans. This project will allow us to deliver numerous opportunities to reduce the effects of PTSD. Farming, cooking and other skills will be taught. Interaction with animals will also be very beneficial for calming and even healing the symptoms of PTSD.
Tell us a story that illustrates your organization’s good work.
I want to tell a story about a veteran named Angelo. He fought in Vietnam, up and down the Mekong Delta, where large amounts of Agent Orange were dumped. The effects of this, unfortunately, were lifelong for Angelo. Because of his exposure to Agent Orange, his lungs were burned, and he has needed to wear an oxygen tank since age 24.
When Angelo got home and out of the hospital, the PTSD really set in and dramatically affected his life. He received a letter posthumously from a friend who had passed away in Vietnam. Angelo and this friend worked on muscle cars together before the war and were passionate about it. The letter stated that if something were to happen to him, his Chevy muscle car would go to Angelo.
Angelo took this car and totally rebuilt it. He channeled his love for working on cars and allowed it to calm his PTSD. He went all over to show this car. Angelo eventually got the car in a show at the Chevy Hall of Fame for muscle cars and won first prize.
Working on this car became his medication, and his passion and enthusiasm allowed him to overcome a lot of his PTSD, which saved his life. We recently received a donation of a $15,000 movie camera. With this camera, we plan on turning Angelo’s story into an inspiring documentary film. He allowed his passions to create his form of therapy. It is an important story to tell and will enable people to understand what these vets are going through.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
It’s the connection we make with our veterans. We create a wonderful community for vets in need. When people get emotional, and you can feel how thankful they are, that is all the reward we need.
We receive lots of brand-new clothing donations due to overstock. Being able to hand out garments and make these vets happy is amazing. We enjoy seeing the smiles and getting that connection to say, “Hey, we care about you. We didn’t give you anyone’s hand-me-downs.” We want our vets to look their best and feel their best in something brand new. Providing several days’ worth of clothing is very important to us. If someone gets a job, we want them to be confident that they will have a nice clean set of clothing for every day of the week. We want to make sure that we set our veterans up for success.
We want to make sure that we set our veterans up for success.
What do you want people to know about Emmaus for Veterans?
We are all volunteers. We come together and do this work purely to help our veterans in need. A great example is the documentary we are doing with Angelo. This film will be a genuine team effort. One of our members with a background in radio will be doing the commentary. My son has a background in film, and he will be doing all the audiovisuals. This project will be a labor of love.
How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program?
Some of the funds are earmarked to help the widow of a Vietnam veteran obtain her pension. Other funds from Stop & Shop will go towards our farm project and be used for vets who need money for transportation.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Another project we are working on involves partnering with a Marine that builds homes. We are working with him to find donated land where he can build modular homes for veterans needing somewhere to live. This project will create a supportive community for vets in need, which would be fantastic.
One of our mottos is that we want to teach. We use the saying, ‘If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’ All these vets wish to live the American dream we’ve fought for. Our goal and passion are to help them achieve success.
Please visit our website at https://www.e4v.org/ to learn how you can help.