While most people typically think of veterans twice per year on the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays, officials at Global Experience Specialists (GES) want to keep them in mind year-round.
As a result, the tradeshow general contractor during the recent Memorial Day holiday began
collecting donations for the U.S.VETS organization, which is the largest non-profit organization providing critical services for former members of the U.S. military.
“Being a Vietnam veteran myself, I felt it is a darn worthwhile organization,” said David DeRose, exhibitor services associate, GES. “They really help homeless veterans get their lives back together.”
Las Vegas has the 12th-largest population of homeless people in the United States with nearly 9,500, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Of those, there are about 1,350 veterans living with no homes in the Las Vegas area, and about 61 percent of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and other emotional ailments that can prevent them from not only living normalized lives but from obtaining much-needed help.
“Almost all of them are unemployed, and 75 percent have substance abuse issues,” said DeRose. “I’m really hoping this will be an on-going thing and not just once or twice per year.”
Through its collection activities for veterans, GES workers donated many personal items they need for their daily lives and based on a “wish list” provided by U.S.VETS. The
nonprofit operates a facility in Las Vegas to provide services for homeless and other veterans who have trouble getting such assistance elsewhere. And its mission is to provide “the successful transition of military veterans and their families through the provision of housing, counseling, career development and comprehensive support,” according to U.S.VETS.
Since opening its Las Vegas operation in 2001, U.S.VETS has helped more than 4,000 veterans of the U.S. armed forces fight substance abuse, obtain employment services, counseling, case management, and temporary as well as permanent housing. Many other services also are provided, and a second location was opened in Las Vegas in 2011. Between the two locations, some 240 military veterans have a roof over their heads at night and a place to obtain critical services.
Before approving the activities, GES officials looked into the organization to ensure it truly is one of the best of its kind before giving the okay to collect donations. And U.S.VETS certainly fits the mold.
The organization seeks out homeless veterans in Las Vegas and elsewhere by canvassing public parks, homeless camps and city streets to find veterans and let them know help is available. Once enrolled in the program, veterans receive temporary housing, counseling and employment services, and other critical services aimed at getting them back on their feet and living normalized lives. There are special programs for women veterans, families of veterans, veterans who are fathers and permanent housing for disabled veterans who otherwise would not have a roof over their heads or hot food in their stomachs.
Nationally, U.S.VETS has helped more than 20,000 veterans to get their lives together and living more normal lives since its founding in 1993 by a collection of military veterans and others. Initially founded in Inglewood, Calif., the organization has expanded into several states, including Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri, Texas and Washington D.C.
In Las Vegas, GES associates helped with donations of toiletries, clothing, bedding and other items on a U.S.VETS “wish list.” Among wished-for items are postage stamps, gas and phone cards, bus passes, grocery gift cards, non-alcoholic mouthwash, bicycles and bike locks, feminine products and bedding, among many others. This year, one veteran received a much-needed wheelchair.
With U.S.VETS providing so many critical services that help not only former military members but the entire community as a whole, it was easy for GES officials to agree to provide support. And DeRose wants to make that support continue.
“I’m really hoping this will be an ongoing thing and not just the holidays,” said DeRose of the workplace donations.
And with the help of GES and its generous associates, that hope very well might become a reality.