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VP2H co-founder Dave Fingers sees appreciation as reward

When Dave Fingers met Shane Schmutz, they started planning a gala so they could donate to the Wounded Warriors Project. Some 750 people attendees and a donation of $249,000 later, they realized that the idea they put together “had legs.” They formed Veteran’s Passport to Hope in 2012 so they could more actively support a number of veterans organizations throughout Colorado.Dave Fingers

Dave served in the Army for 10 ½ years so he understands the life of a veteran. He spent his last three years in the Army as a recruiter, which led him to a civilian career in technical recruiting. His service in the military gave him a transferrable skill that he still uses today, in his own recruiting firm.

After leaving the Army, Dave went to work for an IT staffing firm. He eventually started his own recruiting firm, launching that venture in 2008. In 2009, he launched a marketing firm for small businesses that became a digital marketing firm (adjusting to the times) by 2012.

He has since transitioned to a new digital marketing firm, with partner Anna Mannerfelt. Wired Mustang reflects the digital (wired) as well as Dave and Anna’s passion for horses (mustang). Continuing that theme, they are in the process of trademarking their tagline: “Increase your online horsepower!”

Dave sees VP2H as “heading in a great direction.” He says he can see that in what the organization is doing from a fundraising standpoint and in what it is doing with social media and a new website. He adds that he “would love to see us be a national organization with a presence in all the different states that would have their own chapters.”

As of now, VP2H is on track to continue to make a big impact on the veteran community in Colorado. Dave is pleased with the great board the organization has assembled and its new Executive Director, Tony Drees, all of whom have been innovative in moving the organization forward.

Dave was board president for 3 ½ years and is enjoying being “just” a board member now. He says he enjoys being a part of the organization “because of the impact we have” and will continue to do it because its his passion. What does he get in return? To be able to “feel good because we’ve helped impact the community.” He has talked to the organizations that VP2H helps and knows that the help is appreciated and, to him, that is the biggest reward of all.

Transitioning is not one-and-done

By VP2H Executive Director Tony Drees

Transitioning from one situation to another, from one type of life to another, is a marathon not a sprint. And it certainly is not a one-time event.

Military personnel who transition to civilian life might find that it takes years to truly make the adjustment to being “back home.” Wounded veterans must make long-term adjustments to a life without a limb or with a scar that constantly reminds them of how they were wounded. Military families must constantly transition to new homes and new lives.

Thinking that the transition is a one-time event can actually hurt the process as well as the person undergoing the process. When others believe that a veteran has successfully transitioned to civilian life after just a few days or even months at home, it puts more pressure on that veteran to act like the transition was successful. That added stress can worsen post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can snowball into much more severe issues.

A transition can be an extended series of challenges, successes, failures, and, most importantly, recovery from failures. Transitioning to a new situation takes time and support. Veterans need the support of their families, their friends, and organizations like Veteran’s Passport to Hope (VP2H).

If you know a veteran – or are a veteran – experiencing a transition, know that it is not a one-and-done event. It is okay to need that time to make adjustments, to rebuild relationships, and to fully accept the new type of life that requires those adjustments.

Know also that you have the support you need – in VP2H and in so many other organizations that work with us. We are all focused on helping you through the journey of your transition.

Need help? Direction? A resource? Contact VP2H. That’s why we’re here.

Project Sanctuary provides hope and healing for military families

When a service member transitions home, to civilian life and to family, the adjustments can be overwhelming for everyone. Project Sanctuary offers those families a place to heal and to reconnect, in a safe and healthy environment.

Heather Ehle founded Project Sanctuary in 2007, recognizing the need to help those military families overcome their challenges. Through retreats that include therapeutic recreation, counseling, and classes, the service member has the opportunity to reconnect not only with family but quite often with himself or herself as well.

Geneva Templeton Moore, Chief Operating Officer at Project Sanctuary, points out that military families have a higher rate of divorce, higher rates of domestic abuse, and extremely higher rates of suicides. In fact, she says, the “numbers are shockingly high.” Project Sanctuary addresses the need to bring those numbers down and to understand how to make things better in the service member’s home, by serving the whole family.

Those families come from 49 states and from duty stations across the world. Project Sanctuary hosts retreats in eight states, serving each region of the country. The organization serves both active duty and prior service military families through their two-year program called the ART of Project Sanctuary.

ART is an acronym for Assessing, Reconnecting, and Thriving.

First, they assess the family’s specific needs to determine whether they are in immediate crisis and need assistance from other partners across the country or whether they can benefit from Project Sanctuary’s program.

Second, they reconnect the service member to himself or herself and to the family and, ultimately, to the community. The organization hosts six-day retreats that include counseling, classes, and therapeutic recreation time, using simple activities like art, bowling, horseback riding, and rafting to help families discover ways to communicate and ways to handle potentially stressful situations. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become their most popular class.

Third, Project Sanctuary helps families continue to thrive by keeping in touch throughout the two-year follow-up period. Moore says that the organization has a “90% success rate of families staying together” after they complete the ART of Project Sanctuary program.

Project Sanctuary has been partnered with Veteran’s Passport to Hope since the beginning. VP2H founder, Shane Schmutz, was an early Project Sanctuary board member. Geneva Templeton Moore says that the “support of VP2H has been tremendous.” Retreats are expensive but as funding allows, Project Sanctuary continues to increase the number of retreats each year, to meet the growing needs, and VP2H has been a key factor in their ability to do just that. The grants they have received from VP2H have funded entire retreats for military families who need hope and healing.

Check out the Today Show’s recent story on Project Sanctuary!