Annual United Way Day of Caring offers volunteer opportunity, helps community efforts

United Way Day of Caring volunteers
The annual United Way Day of Caring provides an opportunity to improve the community through service. Last year over 1,800 people volunteered to help central Indiana’s nonprofit organizations, schools, and childcare centers. We were thankful to have some of these volunteers at HVAF last year. This year on Friday, August 23rd, HVAF hosted more United Way volunteers.

Raphael Adeola (left) and Jeffrey Archey Jr. (right)
One of these volunteers was Raphael Adeola, 27, from Amica Insurance. “Our company has two volunteer days a year and this is a great way to thank our veterans,” he said. Raphael’s uncle served in the Army and his sister and brother-in law served in the Air Force.

Jeffrey Archey Jr., 24, a Loan Executive sponsored by UPS for United Way also wanted to give back to our veterans. “I’m trying to get a greater understanding of all the agencies United Way is associated with. It’s also a great feeling to come out and do something for the veterans.”

Thank you to those who participated this year. We hope to see you all again next year!

Mentor from past leads veteran to become positive influence

Paul D. Shafer, president of the Packer Collegiate Institute, once said that there is no greater influence for a person than the life of another person worth emulation. James S., 52, U.S. Army veteran, saw this positive influence in the men in uniform who used to visit his high school when he was growing up. The examples of these officers inspired him to join the Army after high school in 1978. James never had an older brother or a particular mentor, but he would soon find one in Sgt. James Pettaway in 1980.

James S., HVAF veteran
“He took me under his wings. He wasn’t afraid to tell me, ‘do this or don’t do this.’ He was a true mentor.” Sgt. James Pettaway. always reminded James S. of the consequences of his actions, and even showed him little tricks to help him stand out from his peers. “One thing I remember is the boots. He showed me how to polish them and then burn the polish a little bit with a lighter before shining them. They would shine so bright you could shave in them.”

Unfortunately, not everyone he met was a positive influence. Peer pressure and the desire of making friends caused alcohol to become an addiction as James’ time in the US Army came to a close. When James got back home, he held several odd jobs and bounced around from place to place until coming to Indianapolis to live with family in 1998; however, that couldn’t last forever. By 2012, James was homeless. His alcohol consumption had become a lifestyle. “As a result of my drinking and addiction I needed HVAF…I knew it would be a place where I could get help. I got my second chance.”

HVAF provided not only a place to live and a place to get help, but also something James had not had since his service; a mentor. “My case manager has been an influence…he helped me get a good perspective and look at myself in a different way.” Now James hopes he can be an example for his fellow veterans. “I see a lot down here at HVAF. It’s not a dress rehearsal and veterans should be serious about this chance to get their lives back. I like when I see some guys who are working more seriously.” James’ influence goes beyond HVAF. He is currently working towards a degree in Criminal Justice at Indiana Tech and recently got a job in security in July. “I think you shouldn’t just go for an average job. If you want to be a winner, push yourself. Sacrifice where it hurts if you want to be better.” Hopefully we can all learn something from James’ story and message.

Unique Home Solutions commitment to U.S. veterans

On Saturday, November 9 at 4:00 p.m., Unique Home Solutions, one of the largest home remodeling companies in Indiana, will hold a Pig Roast dinner at Sully’s Bar & Grill to benefit HVAF. The Pig Roast is a culmination of a year-long effort and more than $10,000 dollars has already been raised.

“I admired my cousins who served in the military and I saw the sacrifices they made and that moved me,” says Bob Dillon, CEO of Unique Home Solutions.

Bob learned about HVAF through his corporate attorney, Russell Cox, who also serves as an HVAF Founding member and current board member. Now Bob’s Unique Home Solutions team of 150 is raising awareness and funds through this fundraiser.

“This was an opportunity for Unique Home Solutions to show our support of military members.”

Space is limited. Tickets: $12 per person or $20 for 2. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit HVAF. Purchase tickets online at http://uniquehomesolutions.org/unique-home-solutions-commitment-to-us-veterans.

Local church members raise money for homeless veterans

We don’t know where we’d be without the thousands of dedicated volunteers we’ve had over the years. From serving meals to holding food and clothing drives, volunteers have been vital in the fight against homelessness, poverty, illness, and despair. 

Louise Loyd, HVAF Board Member hands check to
Steve Benz, HVAF Board Chairman
When HVAF board member Louise Loyd teamed up with Dee and John Cazares of Bethel United Methodist Church, they had one goal in mind: to raise money for homeless veterans at HVAF. With help from the church community, they raised $1,000 for HVAF.

“While there are services to help military veterans, many returning troops still face homelessness and chronic unemployment, and we wanted to help contribute in any way we could,” says Dee Cazares, a Bethel United Methodist Church member.

Members of the west Indianapolis church held a food and clothing drive for HVAF last year and wanted to do more.

“We were thinking about putting together a patriotic mission and asked her if HVAF would be interested in building a service around HVAF,” adds Dee.

The program was so well received the congregation plans to do it again next year.

HVAF welcomes individual volunteers as well as employee groups and faith groups to assist us with events, special projects, and community outreach. For a list of upcoming opportunities go to hvaf.org.

Lab to provide critical resources to help America’s heroes find jobs

GTECH Indiana donated a computer lab – the first of its kind donated by the company in the nation – to HVAF of Indiana, a United Way nonprofit which focuses on improving the lives of homeless Hoosier veterans and their families. The lab, which cost $15,000, includes eight Dell desktop computers, a Dell SonicWALL, an all-in-one printer and software from Microsoft.

Charles Haenlein, HVAF's president, said the ability to access that lab will serve as “one more lifeline” for veterans like Mark Williams, a 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran who is continuing his education at Ivy Tech Community College. “In many cases it will mean an outlet for continued education, applying for veterans benefits, communications and connecting with friends and relatives,” says Haenlein.

54-year-old Army and Marine Corps veteran Mark W. addressed the group and said the computer lab is more convenient than waiting in line at the library.

“This computer lab could not have come at a better time,” says Mark. “Anymore, you have to use a computer for just about everything we do to transition back into a normal life."

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard – who is a Marine Corps veteran – said the lab will provide “critical resources to help America’s heroes find jobs.”

And Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she couldn’t “think of a better way to thank our veterans” for “heroic service to our state and country” than helping them “apply for jobs, search for housing and gain additional education.”

Special thanks to Bill Moreau and Bob Grand of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. 

Media coverage included Indy Star, WTHR, WISH-TV, The Statehouse File and NPR. View the stories at the links below.                  


A clean record means a second chance

Anthony S., HVAF veteran
For more than a decade, Anthony S., a U.S. Army veteran, has been haunted by it. Each time the homeless veteran seeks an opportunity to turn his life around; there it is in black and white print – convicted felon.
Anthony and some 123 homeless veterans currently being served by Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) have criminal records. Their lives ruined after a single poor choice and despite their brave service to their country.

“It started from the very moment I made that decision to steal,” the 49-year-old, who served six months in prison for his crime, says. “I was abusing alcohol, wasn’t thinking straight and that wrong decision has been a barrier for me moving forward with my life.”

But now, HVAF, its partner the United Way of Central Indiana and others are launching a new program on August 28 at the Indiana War Memorial that could help veterans move beyond their criminal convictions.

“We’re calling it Second Chances Series: Helping Hoosier Veterans, an Expungement Forum,” says Charles Haenlein, Ph.D., the President and CEO of HVAF. “We will help veterans and our HVAF case managers, who work to return our vets to self sufficiency, understand a new state law (Public Law 159), that went into effect July 1 that allows some crimes to be expunged from veterans’ records."

Keith C., HVAF veteran
“It’s discouraging that each time I apply for a job and they find out that I have a criminal record I never hear from them again,” says HVAF veteran Keith C., a 47-year-old veteran of Operation Desert Storm. “The opportunity for a clean record gives me hope for a job and maybe even a home of my own.”

Employment and homeownership are the two most crucial, potentially life-changing events impacted by a veteran’s criminal record. Housing authorities will deny an otherwise eligible veteran a placement based on a single prior drug conviction. Employers rarely consider applicants with a felony record.

“The men and women we serve are good people seeking a better life,” Haenlein says. “Many are in our intensive substance abuse treatment program REST, working hard through classes and programs five days a week, and we owe it to them to give them the best opportunity for a second chance at personal success.”

“I understand that this isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card," Anthony says. “But, getting my crimes expunged would help me become a productive member of society again.”

And, he’ll no longer be haunted by the actions of a man he no longer recognizes.

“I’m working to earn a management level position in customer service, possibly the food service industry, and to acquire my own home,” Anthony says.

His fellow veteran, Keith, plans to go return to college to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in paralegal services at IUPUI.

Editor’s note: The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and Indiana State Representative Jud McMillin are serving as Expungement Forum instructors, and our deeply appreciated partners in the event. Co-sponsored by HVAF of Indiana, Inc, United Way of Central Indiana and PACE.