Sonoma County Vet Connect - Serving Others

 
Sonoma County Vet Connect


Category

Serving Others

Nominated by

David M. Phillips

Presented by

Grace Villafuerte, Merit Awards Committee

About

Sonoma County Vet Connect is a volunteer, nonprofit group comprised of primarily veterans helping other veterans.

In 2003, Rick and Pat Jones, self-proclaimed church people, were assisting Redwood Gospel Mission’s church services. Rick wore his veteran hat, and homeless veterans would regularly approach him asking questions about veteran’s services. Eventually, Rick and Pat began assisting veterans at the mission, and Pat became a resource for veterans at the Morgan Street Shelter. The pair had gained personal experience with the challenges that veterans face while accessing benefits for Rick, and knew the obstacles of processing paperwork. They assured their clients that they would support them during the process, a journey that often took years. Pat received accreditation from the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Veteran Service Officer for Vietnam Veterans of America and also worked at the Sonoma County Veterans Service Office, assisting veterans with claims. In 2008, Vet Connect was formed, with assistance from Kim Valdez at the VA clinic and Ted Fox from County Mental Health. Vet Connect is open once a week, and veterans or their family members are welcome. Numerous organizations, including veteran services, housing and health services, employers, and more are available for veterans to ask questions. On their first day, they hosted four or five veterans and three or four organizations. Nowadays, up to 90 veterans and 30 organizations are present on any given day. Their work earned them the Jefferson Award in 2016.

Vet Connect does not receive government funding. They are funded through donations and the sales of their rubber ducky's booth, which can be found at various events county wide. Donations are given directly to veterans, in the form of supplies and financial assistance. Motorcycle clubs, often comprised of veterans, are among their most generous supporters. Vet Connect is passionate about reaching veterans of the Iran and Iraq War.

Photos of Recipient in Action

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Photos of Awards Ceremony

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