The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 18, 2014

Tom Caulfield | Squeezed for funds, VCI seeks your help

JOHNSTOWN — Like all nonprofits, Veteran Community Initiatives Inc. (VCI), your local (no cost) veteran service provider in the Laurel Highlands since 1993, has had to tighten its belt as funding, grants and private donations become fewer, more difficult to attain, more restrictive and, more often than not, awarded to larger metropolitan areas.

Having served more than 6,600 veterans and veteran family members, assisting with over 4,450 job placements, preparing and developing 5,500 customized client resumes and holding 555 job fairs and workshops in our 20-plus years in existence, VCI has certainly made a difference in many of our client’s lives. The local economic impact over this period within our local communities breaks down to a $38-to-$1 return on program investment. (Imagine if my finances gave me that same return on investment. I’d be sipping a cold drink somewhere on a warm beach.)

Job search assistance, however, is not the only community activity we participate in. Our 20-member board of directors is comprised of local, community-oriented, well-respected veterans and veteran associated leaders. We are active members of four area chambers of commerce, sponsor an annual military spouse appreciation day, provide veteran peer mentors for veterans court programs, host biennial salute to veterans dinners (in 2013, we hosted/honored our local returning Afghanistan veterans), Chapel of Four chaplains ceremony and receptions, as well as administered effective outreach programs for veterans needing a helping hand, not a handout, with financial emergencies.

VCI is the lead organization of the Pennsylvania Disabled Veteran Rehabilitation Vocational Retraining Project, responsible for operating the longest running (nine years in August) returning Veterans Issues Symposium in Pennsylvania, held annually at the Hiram G. Andrews Center.  

VCI board members and staff are active members of federal, state and local government and public/private boards and committees.

Working in conjunction with the Conemaugh Valley Veterans, VCI was the lead organization for the John P. Murtha statue/veterans park beautification project. VCI has also been in the forefront of traumatic brain injury community reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention programs and educational training.

VCI is involved with a number of other local, charitable, military support and business initiatives, of which we do not have time or space for in this column. The bottom line is, we are an extremely active nonprofit partner within our local communities.

Throughout our existence, VCI has never made a direct appeal to the community at large to continue our programs and services. The goals and initiatives of the organization have historically been pursued and obtained through projects, grants, specific fundraising events and legislative and administrative initiatives. We plan to continue and increase these same efforts and methods despite the economy’s reductions, restraints and limitations.

As we now find ourselves in a battle for operational survival, we ask our local and generous supporters (clients, veterans, families), service club organizations, nonprofits, businesses and churches to consider assisting us in our plight to obtaining funding.  With your support we can and will continue to offer professional services to our local veterans and family members.  

Perhaps you might belong to a veterans group, church committee, civic club, union, police organization, fire hall, employee/professional organization, etc., that might consider holding a fundraiser to help us. Keeping our veteran-operated, community-oriented programs intact for our fellow veterans and their families is our top priority.

It is VCI’s intent to continue providing these services to our military, veterans and their family members who have sacrificed so much so often to promote our freedom and way of life. We cannot forget them as they return from deployment. They need your help now, more than ever.  

May God bless our troops, veterans and their families.

Tom Caulfield is president and director of Veteran Community Initiatives Inc. based at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Upper Yoder Township.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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