A veteran at HVAF gets a wake up call

Freddie, 57, is a veteran who came to HVAF for help in recovery. He served in the Army from 1976-79 and enjoyed traveling. He says years of substance abuse led to medical problems. In August 2015, he entered HVAF’s Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse, Treatment (REST) program. In December, he had a heart attack. In order to stay healthy, Freddie knew he had to change his lifestyle. He embraced the staff at HVAF and its 12-step recovery program. In January, Freddie had triple bypass surgery. He is making great strides towards a healthy lifestyle each day.

Freddie tells us in his own words why he decided to change his life around.


Employment services offer new opportunities for veterans at HVAF

February 18 at 7:30am was a noteworthy date for Mark B., 51, a native of Houston, Texas. He returned back to work after 10 years of intermittent homelessness, job loss and countless setbacks. Mark currently calls Wheeler Mission home and is an electrician by trade.

A veteran of the Navy, he joined served in 1983 and was stationed in Houston, Texas. After he fulfilled his duty, Mark was lured to Colorado for its varied natural landscapes.

But, after several years of working odd jobs, Mark packed his bags. He had set his sights on Indianapolis to live with his sister. In Indianapolis, his living situation crumbled and Mark says he was left to live on the streets. He called HVAF for help with employment services in December 2015.

Employment specialists at HVAF helped Mark create a resume as well as provided him with the tools needed to apply for jobs he was not only interested in but qualified for.
Employment specialists work daily on meeting the needs of Hoosier veterans. Last year, we served a total of 325 clients of which 225 clients secured gainful employment.

Whether it’s building resumes, serving as a resource for job leads, or transporting veterans to and from job fairs, it’s a resource that is life-changing.

At HVAF, Mark met Employment Specialist and Navy veteran Rodney Jackson. There is a shared brotherhood between the two men and Rodney does not take his role at HVAF lightly and feels he is making a difference in the lives of the veterans he helps each day.

“Mark is not a quitter, that’s for sure,” adds Rodney. “It’s been amazing to watch his self-esteem soar through the process.”

Mark is indeed a fighter. He does not give up.

On February 18 at 7:30am, he began working at LGC Associates at a concession in the Indiana Convention Center and is currently looking for permanent housing.

Volunteer impact is far-reaching

Eight volunteers spent the afternoon of January 27 in the food pantry at HVAF. When the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters Accounting Team arrived, there were bags and boxes of new food and hygiene donations lining the hallway, with more in the pantry. The donations needed to be sorted, checked for expiration dates, labeled, and organized on the shelves.  

“Our Compliance Accountant was particularly enthusiastic about organizing the donations which were already on the shelves to better utilize the limited spacing,” says Carmela Garcia Accounting Grants Coordinator, American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters. “Meanwhile, half of us were in charge of sorting and labeling new donations, while the other half were putting these away neatly on the shelves. All new donations were labeled and organized on the food pantry shelves within a couple hours.”

Several members of the Accounting team have family members who served in the Army, Air Force, and Navy during the Korean and Vietnam wars and more. One of the team members’ father was a 20-year veteran for the Colombian Army as well.

“For years, the national headquarters staff of the American Legion Auxiliary has been aware that HVAF meets a huge need for our Indiana veterans,” adds Carmela. “As a veteran-focused non-profit ourselves, we share a common mission of serving our veterans.”

The group collects donations in the office year-round and make trips downtown to drop them off. They stay up-to-date with HVAF news and needs through the HVAF newsletter.

“Occasionally, it’s nice to get out of the office for a few hours and do something mission-focused,” says Carmela. “Staff members of the American Legion Auxiliary have visited HVAF a few times before to tour and/or volunteer during lunchtime and each time is rewarding.”

Carmela adds that serving HVAF’s veterans has boosted their team’s comradery and sense of mission.

“It can be easy to get tunnel-focused on the minutia of daily duties—to live in a vortex of spreadsheets, financial reports, this data and that data. I mean, we love that stuff! But it’s really a wonderful experience to break away every now and then and re-center ourselves in the greater mission of what we’re doing. Through giving back, we are reminded that all of those little details that fill each work day are for the benefit of our veterans and their families, in the spirit of service, not self,” Carmela Garcia, Grants Coordinator. 

Local truck club helps homeless veterans

The sound of pick-up trucks could be heard rumbling into the parking lot at HVAF on January 24. You could hear them coming from blocks away. Twenty-three pickup trucks in all converged in the parking lot with a donation for homeless veterans. Fifty members of the Diesel Mafia of Indiana, an Indianapolis-based truck club, delivered much-needed winter essentials. Hunter Stopes, Vice President of Diesel Mafia of Indiana, first learned of the need through HVAF’s HR Coordinator Sammy Mitchell and sprung to action by gathering the group to collect items. As a result, fifteen veterans in HVAF’s recovery program received hats, gloves and other items.

The truck club, which was formed September 2014, prioritizes which charity to support each year. When the group learned about HVAF, donations poured in from around the state.

“It saddens me to learn that some of the men and women who fight so I that I can have clothes on my body, a roof over my head, and be able to live in freedom are homeless,” says Hunter. “To hear they cannot stay warm or have a home to go to considering they fought for us is frustrating. We are glad to be of help in their time of need.”

Diesel Mafia of Indiana

Veteran battles the downs in life

Born in Spencer, Indiana, Roy, 57, served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Before his life fell apart and before drugs and alcohol brought him down, he was a tough and proud soldier. Still, nothing could prepare him for homelessness. In March 2013, Roy sought help at HVAF’s recovery program for drug and alcohol addiction. However, after the death of his sister, Roy relapsed and ended up back on the streets.

In March 2013, he mustered strength, attended PTSD counseling at the VA, and reached back out to HVAF for help with housing. At HVAF, he met Case Manager Jennifer Smith.

“Roy has worked very hard while being in our program,” says HVAF Case Manager Jennifer Smith. “He has been a model client and has gone above and beyond in his goal of stability. It has not been easy, and he has experienced several setbacks, but each time he did not allow them to stop him from achieving his goals.”

A cascade of combat veterans are seeking help and the effects of combat trauma extend far beyond the traditional and narrow clinical diagnoses of PTSD.

"No one gets out unscathed," adds Roy, reflecting on his struggles, “but I have learned to take small steps each day.”

Last year, Roy began Compensated Work Therapy (CWT), a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational rehabilitation program that endeavors to match and support work readiness. He was responsible for painting. Then, there was an opening in housekeeping and he took it.

Roy is currently looking for permanent housing.

“I’m anxious and excited for permanent housing. I am thankful for my time here at Manchester and having been provided a case manager and a roof over my head. But there comes a time when I have to go out on my own. It’s a bit daunting but after everything I have been through I can make it.”

Roy keeps a busy work schedule and enjoys biking in his free time. Failure is not an option for Roy.

Here's Roy in his own words:


The Home Depot Foundation provides veterans a breath of fresh air

An Indianapolis veteran will be breathing a bit easier today thanks in part to the Home Depot Foundation.

Daniel M., 56, struggled with breathing problems as a child. At 18, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. But that didn’t stop him from joining the Navy in 1976. He relied on breathing exercises to get him through. However, once back home in Indianapolis he was met with persistent pain, shortness of breath and burning lungs. He was unemployed and depressed. In July 2014, Daniel became homeless and called the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) for help with housing.

Daniel is among 38 veterans living at the Moreau House, one of 13 transitional housing properties for homeless veterans operated HVAF. In October, the Moreau House was renovated as part of a $100,000 grant by The Home Depot Foundation.

The grant enabled HVAF to replace single pane windows that did not open easily with energy-efficient double vinyl windows as well as supplied new siding, gutters and down spouts. The project also allowed HVAF to replace the property’s 25-year-old roof.

This has benefited Daniel greatly. The fresh air helps Daniel and he can now open the windows with ease.

The Navy veteran took a deep breath as he fought back tears recalling what The Home Depot Foundation has done for veterans.

“It’s emotional,” he said. “All of us veterans at HVAF are like family and it helps a lot just knowing that organizations, like the Home Depot Foundation, are there to help. Home Depot jumped in and it has been amazing.”

Giving back to veterans is personal to The Home Depot, as more than 35,000 of the company’s associates have served in the military. Daniel says the renovations has improved his quality of life.