Maybe you cut the lawn on your Saturdays. Maybe you play golf.
Andrew Ward on a recent Saturday created a nonprofit, volunteer organization to serve military veterans on multiple fronts. It’s his latest “passion project,” he said.
Ward, who served in the Middle East with the 256th Infantry Brigade, Louisiana Army National Guard, envisions the Acadiana Veteran Alliance, which he and supporters have registered as a 501c3, as a conduit of support for ex-military men and women in three areas: Work, Heal and Give.
“As a veteran myself, I have seen firsthand the struggles many of them face,” he said, “whether it be in finding a job, dealing with PTSD or even having a roof over their head.”
That’s why Ward, a health business executive who serves AVA as president; Levi Kastner, AVA vice president; and other volunteers and board members initiated the all-volunteer group. The goal, they say, is to draw upon support agencies and donors in the community.
Last weekend the group held its first fund-raising event – volunteers sold T-shirts – at a Cars and Coffee event with the League of Exceptional Motoring on Ambassador Caffery Parkway and raised $1,000. More money will be generated by recruiting business donors who will pay $250 a year to join and gain access to potential employee pools consisting of veterans. Ward calls the donor component a sort of “chamber of commerce” linked to veterans.
Ward said the jobs part of the group focuses on veteran-owned companies and others that may want to hire veterans. AVA will work through NextOp, founded in 2014, which helps high-performing veterans transform their service training and skills for civilian employment possibilities. Member businesses with AVA will have access to promising veterans
The Heal portion of the service takes aim at helping veterans who need help with mental health solutions, principally for post-traumatic stress disorder, through contacts with private healthcare providers and with some contacts through United Way of Acadiana. That’s urgent: It could help those struggling with depression. Some 22 veterans a day commit suicide, statistics show.
The Give part of the mission involves AVA contributing to established veterans organizations and non-profits while assisting with financial, legal or housing assistance. By raising funds, AVA may act as “an aggregator” of resources to serve veterans.
He said the organization shows “the youth and energy of veterans from their 20s to 40s,” many of whom are “plugged into their community.”
For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/acadianaveteranalliance/about/