The president of the Augusta Warrior Project wants people to know that it is a local group helping local veterans.
“Many people get us confused and think we are part of a national organization,” said Kim Elle, who is also chief executive officer for the organization. “We are a local organization, but we’ve made a national impact.”
Its mission is to help veterans who “find their lives in chaos and crises,” and it networks with entities such as the Veterans Administration, Fort Gordon, local businesses, universities and individuals to assist with employment, education and other services.
And Elle would like for her organization to be one of the first places a service member transitioning out of the military would go to find services.
Elle said multiple programs exist to help veterans find a new career after military life. There are grants that provide training and higher-level education opportunities that exist without touching the education benefits provided by military service, she said.
Barriers to meaningful employment that provides good wages are hurdles some veterans face, and it could be one of the contributing factors for the alarming number of suicides veterans commit daily, she said. A recent statistic from the VA said that about 20 veterans commit suicide per day.
And the Augusta area is not immune.
“In the last month, we’ve seen a few ourselves,” she said.
Unemployment or underemployment can lead to a downward spiral, including the loss of a vehicle and loss of a home. Sometimes there are also substance abuse issues or post traumatic stress disorder related problems.
Elle said the agency isn’t interested in providing temporary or one-time fixes.
If a veteran needs the light bill paid, then there’s another, bigger problem. Maybe that problem is lack of access to VA benefits, underemployment or unemployment. The goal would then be to connect the veteran to a long-term solution while resolving the short-term one at the same time, she said.
“We have a lot of community partners,” she said.
And those partners are willing to go the extra mile to help those who’ve served in the military, she said.
If a veteran needs transportation to get to work, they’ll work to find some type of solution.
“If they don’t have transportation, but can get to work on a bike, we’ll get a bike,” she said. “We’ll figure out a way to make it work. Maybe they need a bus pass.”
The organization also helps veterans and their spouses find employment.
For many veterans, the hardest part is navigating the maze, and Elle and others at the Augusta Warrior Project know the ins and outs of the maze, she said, adding that the organization is there to help all veterans and their family members.
Many people think the Augusta Warrior Project is only there to help post 9/11 veterans, but whatever the era from World War II until now, there’s assistance available. And it’s not just for the veterans. Their families can also receive help, she said.
To learn more about the programs of the Augusta Warrior Project, call (706) 951-7506 or visit www.augustawarriorproject.org. An Awareness Rally is being held Friday at the Augusta University Summerville Campus at 9 a.m. A 24-hour walkathon will begin later recognizing the sacrifices made by veterans. Proceeds will benefit Augusta Warrior Project.