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Volunteer Spotlight: Workers sought for helping veterans apply for aid

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/5/2021 9:50:52 PM
Modified: 6/5/2021 9:50:51 PM

Volunteer case workers are needed to help assist veterans facing financial difficulties.

Friends of Veterans, a White River Junction-based nonprofit organization that assists veterans throughout the Twin States, is preparing for an influx of requests as the federal eviction moratorium is set to end June 30. Patt Taylor, president of Friends of Veterans, is hoping to recruit people who can assist veterans in filling out applications to receive funding from the organization. Veterans who qualify can receive around $1,000 a year in assistance. Each year, the organization gives out roughly $100,000. The money is not given to the veterans themselves; it is goes to where they owe money.

“It was less last year simply because of the federal funding,” Taylor said of applications in a phone interview last Wednesday. “We’ve been watching our money very carefully with the assumption that we’ll get a pretty big increase in requests toward the second half of the year just because of the moratorium.”

Around 60% to 70% of the requests the organization gets are related to housing, Taylor said. That ranges from help paying rent, security deposits and mortgage payments if a veteran is facing foreclosure. Sometimes money will go toward helping a veteran pay for heating fuel or electric bills, if all other local organizations that help folks with them run out of funding.

“If the veteran needs more than $1,000, we ask them to also go to another organization and (we’ll) partner with them,” Taylor said.

He cited a recent request from a veteran who needs around $7,000 for a new well at his home — Friends of Veterans will work with other organizations to make sure he gets the funds to do so.

Recently, the organization has started helping veterans find funding for service dogs.

Volunteers do not need to be veterans. Taylor, who served in the Air Force from 1964-69, said about half of volunteers do not have military service history.

“They bring a different perspective to the table,” Taylor said. “We don’t want all one kind of thinking.”

The main requirements are that volunteers have empathy for the veterans they are assisting and a good understanding of the qualifications to receive assistance. Volunteers must also be comfortable using computers, as Friends of Veterans uses a database to track cases and applications. They’re asked to contribute about half a day a week. For those who work during the office’s open hours, there are other opportunities to assist with outreach and marketing. Volunteers of all ages, including students, are welcome.

“It’s a great eye-opener for them, and I think it will help them mature too,” Taylor said of younger volunteers. “We would use that as an opportunity for them to learn about another part of the world that they’re not familiar with. I think that will be a win-win.”

Andy Daubenspeck, who has been on the board of directors at Headrest for years, started volunteering for Friends of Veterans in October 2019.

“This is very much hands-on,” he said during an interview Tuesday at the Friends of Veterans office at 28 Farmvu Drive, Suite 3, in White River Junction. “This is very much back toward that feeling of helping people, specifically trying to solve problems.”

Veterans the organization assists range from those who served in Vietnam to younger veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Taylor joined the organization around 2004, there were a lot of requests from younger veterans coming back from the Middle East.

“That really had an impact on me because there were a lot of situations where we could really help out,” Taylor said. “Kids coming back with no jobs at that time after getting deactivated after a year.”

Sometimes, when volunteers assist veterans with a financial need they help them tap into other services provided by government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

“It’s just inspiring, the lengths they go to help people in real need,” Daubenspeck said about the social workers and others in social services he’s encountered. “You meet some great people. I’ve met some great people doing this.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Friends of Veterans and to volunteer, visit fovvtnh.org/volunteer.html, email assistance@fovvtnh.org or call 802-296-8368.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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