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More than 200 homeless veterans will have shelter from the cold, job training and a chance to set foot on a career ladder thanks to $40,000 donation HonorAir presented on Veterans Day.
"It's all going right back into operating what we have here," said the Rev. Scott Rogers, the executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, which operates the Veterans Restoration Quarters and its rehab and job training programs. "We have the Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) program. We have a little over 200" in the program. About 150 are in transitional housing at the converted motel where the non-profit organization holds training, alcohol and drug training programs and chapel and serves meals.
The money was raised through the Wounded Warriors softball games the HonorAir sponsored under the leadership of its founder, Jeff Miller, and event coordinator Larry Rostetter.
"We saw a video of the Wounded Warriors," a traveling team that raises money and plays challenge games against first responders and other teams that communities field. "We started out with the (Henderson County) Senior League and it kind of got out of hand after that," he said. "We ended up with two games in Asheville and two games in Hendersonville."
The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball team played the senior softball players and a team of first responders at West Henderson High School last May.
Major sponsors were Pardee Hospital, Mission Health, Budweiser and Borg Warner.
Miller and Rostetter presented an oversized check to Rogers and VETS director Jeff Meo, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and Michael Rich, director of the Veterans Restoration Quarters.
Rogers said the donation was a blessing given that it helped make up the loss of a $200,000 grant.
"We did lose some funding in July and this has made up for it in a big way," he said. Besides the HonorAir check, the Rotary clubs of Western North Carolina, the Knights of Columbus and local churches have stepped up to raise a total of $154,000 to offset the loss of the Labor Department grant.
"When our community raises money without having to rely on grant we know it's sustainable," Rogers said. "We know we're helping our vets reach their full potential."
The program boasts a job placement rate of over 90 percent. The veterans earned $13.60 an hour on average in July, he said, and were on a career path with higher earning potential. More than 90 percent remained sober and drug-free after completing rehab programs at the Veterans Restoration Quarters.
Miller said when he heard about the Wounded Warrior team he jumped at "another opportunity to serve."
The HonorAir founder and newly elected Hendersonville City Council member planned to leave Tuesday for New York, where Breitling, the high-end watch maker, was making a $150,000 donation to the Honor Flight Network, the non-profit organization that flies World War II veterans to see the National World War II Memorial.