It is no secret that veterans often need help, from the first day to the 20th year after they retire from their respective branches of service.
And while many agencies, businesses and people want to help those veterans, they often do not know what resources are out there. The Denton County Veterans’ Coalition was formed to help solve that problem.
“It’s a grassroots organization to address the needs of veterans in Denton County,” said Heather Huhnke, president of the coalition. “The purpose of our organization is to bring veterans, private citizens, business owners, nonprofits … to bring them together in one area to figure out what resources are available. A lot of time they are out there — people just don’t know it.
“A lot of vets fall through the cracks because no one really knows what to do.”
Huhnke noted examples like a veteran having problems paying the rent or needing clothes for a new job.
Huhnke took the reins of the organization from Ginger Simonson, who spearheaded the building of the coalition in 2012.
Simonson said the idea began with the veterans advisory board, an official board that county commissioners appointed to oversee the delivery of veterans’ benefits throughout the county. The board worked closely with the veterans service office as well. After holding some meetings with the public and people who deal with veterans on a regular basis, Simonson said it became apparent that while veterans had lots of benefits, there was not enough being done to connect them to the help they needed.
“I made a pitch to Judge Mary Horn and Commissioner Andy Eads last September and asked if we could push forward in forming a coalition,” Simonson said.
Months later, the group is up and running, holding monthly meetings and offering training to help veterans deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, financial management and everything in between.
Simonson stepped back from her duties in recent months, and Huhnke was voted president as the organization formally elected officers.
Huhnke said the organization is in the process of submitting its 501(c)3 paperwork for nonprofits.
“We’re hoping to get a grant to have emergency funds available. A lot of it now has been donations within the different organizations. We’d like to have the funds where we’re not doing that every single time,” she said.
Huhnke said she wants to have funds to bring in leaders and teachers for training and workshops that would include law and resume writing.
“We’ve looked at different things in the past to decide what is needed as we evolve, addressing the different needs as they come up so the veterans are taken care of,” she said.
For more information on the Denton County Veterans’ Coalition, contact Simonson at 817-683-2870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.