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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation
Formed to Support Vets, Their Families

By SANDRA RHODES

One definition of soldier is someone who is dedicated to a cause.

For Brigadier Gen. (Pa.) Michael Gould that notion has extended far beyond his tenure in the U.S. Army and has inspired him to create a new Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation, a private, non-profit charitable organization that specifically supports veterans and their families in Pennsylvania.

Gould, who serves as deputy adjutant general for the Pennsylvania Office of Veterans’ Affairs, came up with the idea when he looked beyond the borders of Pennsylvania to see what other states are doing.

“You just can’t get there on government dollars alone, especially in these fiscal times,” he said. “The private sector needs to be a part of the solution. Pennsylvania is way behind in this regard. Several states use public-private coalitions to pool the necessary resources to attack these types of social issues.”

Veterans Affairs receives about $3 million to take care of close to 1 million veterans in Pennsylvania.

Gould, a native of McKean County, said there are countless number of veterans’ issues that need addressed. There are 2,000-3,000 veterans homeless in Pennsylvania, about 10 percent are unemployed and 25 percent make less than $22,000 a year. Others suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain injuries. The veteran population is also aging – there are more than 600,000 that are 62 and over.

Gould’s goal is to raise money that will allow the Foundation to grant money to the “multiple non-profit organizations that are already assisting veterans and their families, yet need more resources to touch more.”

The Foundation will also help with a veteran or veteran’s family that needs immediate emergency help.

The directors of two county directors of veterans’ affairs welcome the added help a foundation like this can render.

“I think like all veterans across the nation, these are some that stand out. Employment, medical, and emergency funds to get through the problems that might arise,” said Matt Windsor, who helps the 4,500-5,000 veterans in McKean County.

Windsor added that the Foundation would help veterans with issues that the state or federal governments won’t be able to. He also said that his office, funded through the McKean County Commissioners, has not been affected by lack of funding.

“They have done a great job with making sure that the county veterans are a priority.”

To the west, Warren County has an emergency fund for Warren County veterans handled through the Warren County Veterans Council.

“Our emergency fund has helped with food, heat, and on occasion rent to keep Veterans and their families from being thrown out after they lost their job, said Ed Burris, who serves on the board of the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation.

On a state level, Burris said a foundation like will be great to help organizations get the funding they need.

“Many organizations and private citizens have great ideas on how to help veterans and their families but cannot find funding. This could provide that funding if it was felt that they have the right plans,” he said. “If we only help one person at a time for that one person we have made a difference. If we can help someone who wants to help a specific group of Veterans then we have a made a difference to many.

“Sometimes people need to sit back and think what their lives would be like if it were not the veterans that we are now helping, if they had not went the extra mile for us would we still be the country that we are today, and would we have the freedoms to even write this story.”

Both state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, and Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, hear issues pertaining to veterans and welcome such a foundation to further assist in veterans’ programs.

“My office assists a large number of constituents in handling veterans’ issues so I am very familiar with the struggles that so many of our country’s heroes face on a daily basis,” Scarnati said. “I believe the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation being established by the Department of Veterans Affairs creates a win-win situation for our veterans and Pennsylvania taxpayers and I am hopeful the program can serve as a model for other organizations throughout the Commonwealth.”

Causer agreed, noting that anything that enhances programs for veterans is a good thing.

“I see this as very beneficial,” he said. “I don’t want to see veterans’ issues reduced.”
The fact that the Foundation was established on 11/11/11 is no coincidence. It is Veterans Day, afterall.

The Foundation recently received its IRS tax exempt status. This means the organizers will be launching an informational campaign and outreach to gain support. They have already gained the support of the Eldred American Legion Post 887, which held a craft show with the proceeds donated to the Foundation.

Once set up, the Foundation will also like to help with educational purposes, too, such as supporting the Eldred WWII Museum.

“Yes this Foundation will make a difference whether one person at a time, a hundred or possibly a thousand there are almost a million Veterans in PA with the right support this foundation can and will do great things,” Burris said.

And people throughout the state are getting excited about this initiative.

“Estimates are now that only 1 percent of our U.S. population has ever worn a uniform. Many people want to help and pay back, but someone has to be on point advocating for them. I take that role very seriously,” Gould said.

“(They) are just waiting to launch activities and spread the word,” Gould said. “Veterans’ organizations, like the VFW, know this could change the face of support for veterans in Pennsylvania if it is successful – and it will be.”

For more information on the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation or to make a donation, go to www.paveteransfoundation.org.


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