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Veterans Fund to help meet needs of wounded warriors
The Yuma Sun is taking a look at the Yuma Veterans Fund this week, which will provide grants to help Yuma organizations assist veterans. This story is one in a series titled Veterans In Need. To donate, visit www.AZFoundation.org/YumaVeterans, or call 539-5343.
Yuma not only is a military town, it's also home to many veterans from World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War and the more recent fighting in the Middle East.
“Many are retired,” observed retired Lt. Gen. John Hudson. “And many are disabled in some way, especially those young people coming back who in the past frankly wouldn't have come back. They're coming back with missing arms and legs and wounds you don't see, but with deep scars.”
Yuma's veterans organizations are doing what they can to help them, he said. “But one common problem is that they don't have enough money.”
That's where the new Yuma Veterans Fund will come in.
Established by the Yuma Community Foundation, the fund will provide grants to help those organizations meet a need, said Judy Gresser, executive director of the foundation. It won't be giving money directly to an individual but it can help an organization help a veteran, perhaps with up-front school costs, transportation for medical treatment, housing, transition back to the civilian world and assistance with disability claims and community resources.
Gresser explained that the fund will be endowed. The principal will exist in perpetuity, invested to generate money to fund grants from the interest earned each year.
A local grant distribution committee will be responsible for grantmaking recommendations. The committee will include individuals with a stake in veterans' issues, such as a post chaplain, health care providers, military spouses and active and retired military.
The money will be used only in Yuma County to provide support for Yuma County veterans.
“It won't be competing with other veterans organizations,” Hudson said. “We're here to help them help veterans.”
Hudson is serving as an adviser and booster, but won't be in on the decision-making process.
“I'm just trying to get it kicked off.”
The first goal of the Yuma Veterans Fund was to raise $25,000 by March 31, 2013. It's already exceeded that, Gresser noted.
An anonymous donor who is a veteran stepped up and contributed $10,000 as a challenge gift to encourage donations to the new fund. The veteran will match every $2 donated to the fund with $1 from his gift.
Southwest Gas Corporation recently contributed an additional $10,000, to make a total of $20,000 available in matching funds.
“We are pleased and excited to be able to contribute for many reasons,” said Rick Rohrick, Yuma District manager for the gas company. “Many of our local employees are home-grown, some of them have served or have family members who have served our country in the military. We appreciate and support the role the military has played in our community. To thank those who have served, we are proud to offer this $10,000 challenge gift to encourage contributions to a fund that will benefit our Yuma County veterans and families.”
Gresser called the donation “completely wonderful news.”
Others have stepped up as well.
TRAX International, a defense contractor at Yuma Proving Ground, will give a donation each week it is accident-free and also has offered to attend community events with a computer to take online donations; Rough Riders Motorcycle Club presented a $4,000 check; and developer Ron Martin, whose father was killed in the Vietnam War, has pledged to build two houses that will be sold to benefit the Yuma Veterans Fund and the Yuma Community Food Bank. Attorney Tom Kelly also has become an advocate because of a wounded Marine he has been assisting. Matt Molenar of MGM Design has taken on marketing duties. And local nonprofit NexGen will be doing a variety of things to benefit the fund.
Tax-deductible donations to the Veterans Fund can be made online by going to www.AZFoundation.org/YumaVeterans or by mailing a check to: Yuma Community Foundation, P.O. Box 6835, Yuma, AZ 85366. Donors should write “Yuma Veterans Fund” on the memo line of the check.
To learn more about the Yuma Veterans Fund, email Yuma Community Foundation at email@example.com or call (928) 539-5343.