Groups come together to offer support and supplies by Christine A. Holliday Attend an expo, and you expect to see, taste, or touch things. The Vets’ Expo at Forrester’s on the River was held Saturday, January 17 to offer intangible things, from moral support and assistance locating government to private sector support for veterans returning to civilian life, as well as those still serving. The United States Vets, Inc. were represented by Chris Cremean, one of the organization’s founders. His social work background familiarized him with the challenges vet face when they return home. He heard vets tell of not knowing where to find answers about health care, jobs, education, or general support, and decided to help establish the group. ‘A new paradigm’ “Our group is dedicated to advocacy, referral and education. We find that many returning vets need assistance adjusting to ‘real life’ because of medical conditions, mental health issues, and drug or alcohol abuse . . . sometimes, they want help deciding what they want to do with their lives. We are able to help by advising them where to find the services and/or help advocate for them to get through the bureaucracy that might face them,” Cremean noted. He champions The United States Vets, Inc. as a new paradigm in helping vets. “In the past, they might have found advice at VWF posts. But since Vietnam, vets have started their own support groups. We have discovered that each generation of returning vets has its own set of generational problems, and female vets have their own spectrum of concerns, too. We are here to help all of them,” Cremean explained. More information is available here or on their Facebook page. Also present at the Expo were representatives from WSOS. They work in several Ohio counties to prevent homelessness in the veteran population. Eligible participants can receive services that range from past-due rental assistance and moving costs to utility assistance. They work with clients to develop housing stability plans, and obtain or maintain employment as a way to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become self-sufficient. Those seeking help in Lucas and Wood Counties can contact Robert Stevens at 419 729-8035. Hancock and Seneca county services are available by calling Charlene Watkins at 419 639-6108, and residents of Sandusky, Ottawa, Erie, Huron and Lorain Counties are encouraged to call Irene Miller at 419-734-2652. The main office is at 109 Front Street in Fremont, 800-775-9767. Taking action Heroes in Action is a military outreach program. With the help of volunteer workers, donated dollars and supplies, they send cards, letters, and care packages each month to members of the Armed Forces serving overseas. Dawn Heisler started the group 11 years ago by sending a package of snacks and other goodies to her son. He encouraged her to send a package to guys he knew who didn’t get much mail from home, and HIA was born. Now, she sends dozens of packages every month (60 in January), making certain that he or she receives personal items (like soap, foot and baby powder), sweets and snacks (like instant oatmeal, popcorn or fruit snacks) and miscellaneous items including stationery, phone cards, puzzles and playing cards. She gets the names of service members from friends, family, vets, and churches. The group also offers assistance to families with a family member serving overseas, including furniture, appliances, linens, and aid and help for wounded veterans. Heroes in Action is located at P.O. Box 352046 in Toledo. 419-699-3439, heroesinaction.org.