Sunday, July 2, 2017

Voices of Veterans

Mark Fulford wandered in to dress rehearsal to audition for the concert.  Find out why he got a spot on the show.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Letter from Wendy

April 8, 2017

To all members, participants, veterans, families, volunteers and donors;

Today marks the 4-year anniversary of the day we received the keys to this building.  What a roller coaster 4 years it has been.  Our non-profit organization, Operation Revamp had been in existence since early 2010 but had no home for the Veterans Art Center.  On April 8, 2013 that all changed.
A day earlier family and a few close friends had gathered at my house for a celebration of life honoring my late husband, Jim.  I had symptoms of appendicitis. On the morning of April 8, I met the owner and realtor at the building, signed all the contracts and the offer to purchase and headed out the door with the key. 

Two wonderful blue star moms from Oklahoma, Joretta and Carol, here for Jim’s celebration of life, met me on the sidewalk armed with buckets, cleaners and paint.  They were clear on their intent to get this place cleaned up and ready because it was ‘for the veterans’.  With the help of Dallas and his wife Michelle, the five of us cleaned, sorted, painted, renovated, installed toilets, flooring, ceiling tiles, and found an electrician to get all the non-functioning lights working.  The long hours of dedication by these few committed volunteers paid off and on May 1, we opened the doors of the Veterans Art Center.

When we first opened, there was not much ready besides offices, restrooms and the main studio.  In June we opened the gallery and hosted our first Veterans Art Exhibit, and in July we started our first art classes; pen and ink drawing and wood carving.  In July we also began work on a music room and continued cleaning, sorting, repairs, renovations and painting in the rest of the building.

My initial vision of a fully equipped art center for Veterans and families to heal through art had become a reality and each day we progressed with more space, equipment, supplies and materials to complete that vision.  We started on a
woodshop, the print shop, sculpture studio, and a storefront to help sell veterans and family artwork. We also progressed even faster than anticipated with participants signing up for the programs and services we offered.

What has been our impact in the past 4 years?  295 active participants clocked 4166 hours of use in our first year.  In the 2015-16 fiscal year, those numbers had grown to 1026 participants and 18108 hours of use.  Entering our 4th quarter of the 2016-17 year, we have already recorded over 16,000 hours.  A total of 2154 veterans or family members have accessed our programs since we opened in 2013.  Currently we serve approximately 72% veterans, 77% of whom are repeat participants.

Services have expanded well beyond art, although healing art and mental wellness remain our primary mission.  We also offer alternative healing arts including yoga, acupuncture, reiki and essential oils; emergency assistance and services; transportation; resources and referrals; computers, phone fax and internet; non-cash awards to veterans for art supplies and equipment; small business start-up; an RC Car Club, and of equal importance, camaraderie and fellowship.  We participate in community events and parades and host free concerts, exhibitions, workshops and activities to the public.

The participants themselves can best sum up the results of the services we offer.  According to evaluations, we have helped with stable housing, skills and employment, improved mental health, resolved a crisis, helped with emergency needs, provided transportation, and provided food.   Comments include frequently repeated statements from “this place saved my life” to “there needs to be a center like this in every city”.  Mention has been made regarding the ability to decrease harmful meds after coming here, lessening of PTSD symptoms, and overall improvement in health and wellness. 

How do we accomplish all of this?  We are all-volunteer and have a fantastic core team of volunteers who put in regular hours.  Over 75% of our 11,000 plus volunteer hours in the last fiscal year was by veterans and family members.  The core volunteers including me, manage all of the administration, networking, outreach, finances, grant research, social media, record-keeping, volunteer management, studio oversight and art instruction.  Other volunteer activities include general cleaning and upkeep, maintenance, events, fundraising, promotion, teaching, cooking, data-entry, construction and general labor.  Our volunteers are a very important part of our organization and volunteering has helped many of our veterans and families along their path to healing.

Finally, we do this with the support of our many donors and sponsors who help us out financially and with in-kind donations of art supplies and equipment.  We struggle daily to make ends meet but we make it through with the generosity of those who help us and we would not exist without our donors, be they individuals, organizations or businesses.    

Personally, I have seen the successes of many, the challenges overcome, the healing and gratitude.  Our motto “Helping Vets Heal” is our mission on a daily basis and the impact and results are evident on a daily basis.  I cannot express in words the emotion and gratitude for the many volunteers, participants and donors who make this possible and help so many. My vision has become a reality and has exceeded expectations.  I love you all.

 Wendy J Hoffman