As Veterans Day approaches, the Carroll County Veterans Independence Project has announced its second annual CCVIP Red, White & Blue Gala, to take place Nov. 16 at The Riding Club in Westminster.
The gala is another example that in Carroll County, setting aside a day to commemorate veterans is noble and important, but for many of us, our country’s veterans are not cold statistics relegated to memorization and obligatory ceremonies at scheduled times of the year.
Westminster Councilwoman Ann Thomas Gilbert, a member of the Veterans Independence Project (VIP) board of directors, and the gala chair, stated in a recent email interview, “The reason we started the Red White and Blue Gala was simple; it is our first large fundraising event that introduces the project to the community…”
The gala “raises money toward the project, builds relationships with our donors, and allows us networking and educational opportunities to share our initiative and plan with the community on the project and the direction we are going.
“Our goal is to have one location where veterans and their families can come to seek out community and veterans resources at one location. At any age, veterans need services, sometimes immediately after deployment, sometimes many years later. What we would like to provide is not only the simplest of services but services that may require a long-term case manager and assistance with integrating back to the community. Assistance with careers, job skills, employment, housing, sheltering, mental health, medical treatment, transportation, the list can go on.”
Many folks in the community understand the need to support our veterans. Westminster Councilman Tony Chiavacci, an Army veteran himself, explained, “I am grateful that we have folks in our community that are willing to work so hard to create an important organization like VIP. As a veteran, I am well aware of the need for their existence, and Carroll County is better for it.”
Board member and Vietnam veteran Frank Valenti explained in an email interview, “It all started back in October 2010, when I was appointed as the Director for the Carroll County Department of Social Services (DSS). The DSS is the county’s social service provider, serving over 25,000 residents annually. DSS, pursues a variety opportunities to assist people in economic need, provide preventive services, and protect vulnerable children and adults…
“So we are now on the hunt for a suitable location to begin providing our services to area veterans and their family members. Once established our philosophy is to expand our partnership base with local area healthcare and social service providers, minimize duplication of services, and be a voice for veterans’ issues in the county…”
Veteran Ed Cramer served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. He currently serves on the VIP board of directors and the City of Westminster Board of Zoning Appeals. Cramer recently emailed and explained the need for a Veterans Service Center. The idea is “simple and straight forward. … To establish a Veterans Services Center that will provide transitional and rehabilitative services and housing/shelter to the approximately 10,000 veterans and/or family members living in Carroll County. This will be a collaborative effort among the human and social service agencies and nonprofits serving the County…
“We’re looking at available properties, six so far, in and close to Westminster in order to facilitate access to all human and social service agencies and nonprofits that provide services. We’re keeping our options open in terms of lease, lease with an option to expand, lease with an option to buy, or, if we find the right property at the right price, perhaps we could purchase,” said Cramer.
Gilbert explained in a follow-up email, “What does America or Carroll County need to know about its veterans; new and old? That they are not one voice, one experience, one memory, one war, one problem. That 2.5 million veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. That does not consider or count Desert Storm, Vietnam, World War II, or the Koran War.
“In Maryland there are over 380,000 Veterans and in Carroll County over 10,000 Veterans. As of January 2018, Maryland had an estimated 7,144 people experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 574 were Veterans…”
According to Gilbert, “This year we are hosting our gala dinner at the Riding Club on November 16th from 7-11 pm. We will be having a silent auction, yearly ornament sale, 50/50; raffles and a balloon raffle event. Sponsorships are available for purchase until November 1 from $500 to $3,000.”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.