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Stafford veterans' group awarded $37,500 for helping with homes
Free Lance-Star - 10/15/2018
Oct. 15--Vets on Track Foundation, a nonprofit based in Stafford County, received $37,500 to continue its work furnishing homes for veterans and first-responders who have moved from the streets into permanent housing.
The Garrisonville-based organization was honored recently at the Pentagon during the 19th annual Newman's Own Awards ceremony. Newman's Own, which carries on the legacy of actor Paul Newman, paired with the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times to host the ceremony in which $200,000 was awarded to five organizations that benefit service men and women.
Rick Ecker, who spent 22 years in the Marine Corps, helped found Vets on Track and is the organization's CEO. His foundation works with homeless agencies from Richmond to Baltimore to identify those who need support. Since its creation in June 2016, the group has helped with 246 homes.
"We walk into empty houses and transform them into warm, loving homes," Ecker said. "We provide everything the veteran or first-responder needs, from furniture to dishes to linens and pictures for the wall."
With the assistance, the new residents don't have to worry about saving money for beds or couches--"basic necessities that most of us take for granted," Ecker added. "They can focus their efforts on building a financial base for their future."
Vets on Track considers veterans those who have worn the uniform of their country as well as former law enforcement and fire and rescue professionals, known collectively as "America's 911 Force." Their numbers are as high as 25 million, and many of them live in poverty, face homelessness or need treatment for depression or other psychological issues, according to the Vets on Track website.
The simple gesture of putting a table and chairs in a kitchen or a couch and love seat in a living room can increase a person's self-worth and potentially reduce the number of suicides by veterans, Ecker said.
In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that an average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day. A June report provided more specifics, that of the total of 20.6 suicides daily, 16.8 are veterans and 3.8 are active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists.
Still, after adjusting for age and gender--because veterans tend to be older and male--the 2016 suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults, according to the VA National Suicide Data Report.
In addition, efforts by Vets on Track keep usable items out of the landfill. Most of the items the group receives are used, but still have years of potential, Ecker said.
More than 85 percent of the items the group collects are donated from the Fredericksburg area and redistributed there as well as in Northern Virginia, Norfolk, Washington and Maryland.
Vets on Track needs volunteers to drive its box trucks, help with pickup and delivery and work in the warehouse. More information is available online at vettrack.org or by contacting Ecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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