Brewing help for veterans
“If you think of a hotel having a concierge, that’s our role. The really important thing is for veterans to be with veterans and for veterans to help other veterans. They come in, talk, and network.”
— Diane Nadeau
If you’re a veteran living in the Willimantic, Conn., area, The Salvation Army and other community groups certainly have you covered.
The Willimantic Corps hosts a Veterans Coffeehouse every Wednesday from 9–11 a.m. in conjunction with the Windham Region Chamber of Commerce and the Willimantic Elks Club. The coffeehouse, which draws about 30 people each week, started this spring and features guest speakers who address issues important to veterans.
“It’s a great time for them to get together and maybe learn about benefits they might not know they’re entitled to as veterans,” said Lieutenant Denise Salmon, the corps officer in Willimantic.
Salmon said the Windham Region Chamber of Commerce asked The Salvation Army to host the coffeehouse. Chamber President Diane Nadeau is the chair of the corps advisory board.
“We were definitely on board and wanted to see how we could help,” Salmon said. “They asked about using our facilities and we were more than happy to do that.
“I feel like veterans are underserved here in our community and they’re kind of forgotten. The coffeehouse provides a safe place for them to come together and to just be able to fellowship with one another. It is such a great opportunity for them.”
Salmon said she enjoys the introductions at the coffeehouse meetings, when the veterans share what branch of the military they served.
“You can tell they’re excited for one another and they like to listen to each other’s stories,” she said. “They always have stories to share. I think it’s a great service that’s provided for them.”
Nadeau said veterans are often aware of the government benefits available, but there are also non–profits that can help with health benefits, suicide prevention, mental health, employment, housing, transitioning back into civilian life, burial plots, and being honored with medals of recognition.
“If you think of a hotel having a concierge, that’s our role,” Nadeau said. “The really important thing is for veterans to be with veterans and for veterans to help other veterans. They come in, talk, and network.
“However, even with all of the benefits available to veterans, there are still problems.
“These people put their lives on the line for our country, yet we’re still not able to reach them and make sure they’re cared for when they come home. The whole idea here was to bring people together who can help make a difference.
“The coffeehouse was designed to bring together all of the organizations doing wonderful things for vets and for them all to share information. When there is a hole in one person’s program, such as if they don’t have the money or it’s not directly in their program’s mission to handle an issue, there’s someone sitting next to them who can do that for them.”
Nadeau, who comes from a family with several veterans, said The Salvation Army is a member of the Chamber’s Military Service Council, which also raises money for veterans throughout the year.
“They’re dynamic people at The Salvation Army,” she said. “Their hearts and souls are in the right place. I felt a great connection with them and felt they were going to do great things for the community. They reach out to our community and really make a difference.”
by Robert Mitchell