By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffMay 21, 2008
Patriotism will be painted across the Von Braun CenterAca,!a,,cs South Hall on May 30 as Still Serving Veterans holds its first fund-raiser and community awareness event with the help of internationally acclaimed performance painter Michael Israel.
Aca,!A"Protecting America Aca,!" Heroes in our MidstAca,!A? is the theme of the evening event, which will include dinner, a short program and the painting of four patriotic works set to music by Israel.
Aca,!A"This is going to be a great family event for us,Aca,!A? said Werner Baker, executive director for Still Serving Veterans.
Aca,!A"This event will allow us to honor all veterans as well as local police officers and firefighters, many who have served in the Global War on Terrorism. It is also an event that lets us give back to a community that has been so supportive of what we are doing for veterans.Aca,!A?
Israel is a performance artist known for painting in front of audiences to music. His performances are emotional, thrilling, riveting and awe-inspiring. He has performed at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, various presidential events in Washington, D.C., and at fund-raising events for the Special Olympics, American Red Cross and Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation. Israel is known for using his unique brand of art and artistic expression in support of fund-raising events for non-profit organizations.
Aca,!A"It will be a very enjoyable and entertaining evening,Aca,!A? Baker said. Aca,!A"If you are patriotic, this event will be inspiring.Aca,!A?
The event will begin at 6 p.m. The cost is $75 per person. To reserve tickets, call or e-mail Josie Hopkins, 883-7054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those corporations or organizations sponsoring a table will also host a member of the military or the local law enforcement community.
Although it is hoped the event will draw upward of 650 guests and raise about $40,000, Baker said the eventAca,!a,,cs main purpose is to pay tribute to veterans and local law enforcement officers and to promote the efforts of Still Serving Veterans.
Aca,!A"We plan to donate part of the proceeds to the local law enforcement community,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"This community has been so very generous in supporting Still Serving Veterans. This is our organizationAca,!a,,cs way of giving back to the community that has supported us. This is the right thing to do.Aca,!A?
Since it was formed in 2006, Still Serving Veterans has focused on assisting veterans by Aca,!A"bridging the gapAca,!A? between existing support services and the needs of veterans.
Aca,!A"Our purpose is to work with Soldiers and their families to help these Soldiers get back into their communities. We want to help them once again become full-fledged members of their community so they can support their families,Aca,!A? Baker said.
Since January 2007, Still Serving Veterans has assisted 477 veterans and their families with work force transition assistance, job development and job assistance. It sponsors job fairs for veterans, provides information to veterans on available programs and resources, and ensures veterans obtain all the VA benefits they are entitled to. The organization provides wounded veterans and their families with in-depth counseling and guidance.
Aca,!A"Wounded veterans are our first priority,Aca,!A? Baker said. Aca,!A"But we serve all veterans with any kind of need they may have.
Aca,!A"We want to do whatever we can to help a wounded Soldier recover, return to the work force and participate in their community. But, if the Soldier canAca,!a,,ct do that, then we work with the family to assist them so they can support themselves.Aca,!A?
The organization works closely with the Huntsville Rehabilitative Foundation, the Alabama Department of Vocational Assistance and the Veterans Affairs to assist veterans. It relies on state and federal programs such as Operation Grateful Heart and the ArmyAca,!a,,cs Wounded Warrior Program as well as numerous volunteer organizations, such as Semper Fi, Marine Moms, the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association, CAS Cares, Huntsville Association of Realtors and Jane K. Lowe Foundation, to provide veteran assistance.
Though established in Huntsville, Still Serving Veterans has not limited its services to local veterans. Rather, any veteran anywhere in the U.S. can reach out for assistance from the organization via phone or e-mail. In addition, Still Serving Veterans has begun developing satellite offices in other locations, with the first one planned to open in Kansas during 2008.
Aca,!A"There has to be a local show of interest before a Still Serving Veterans office can be opened in a community,Aca,!A? Baker said. Aca,!A"Before we could support other satellite offices, our focus was to be sure we had a solid foundation here in this community and in Alabama for which to build and spread out. We didnAca,!a,,ct want to grow so fast that we would outpace our resources.Aca,!A?
Funding for Still Serving Veterans comes from corporate and individual donations, as well as foundations, grants, legacies and bequests. The organization is a member of the Combined Federal Campaign.
Baker, a retired Alabama Army National Guard/Reserves lieutenant colonel, leads a small staff that includes senior case manager Grant Rosensteel, case manager Daniel Crawford and executive administrator Josie Hopkins.
Aca,!A"We have a professional, caring staff that really has the needs of veterans and their families at the heart of all they do,Aca,!A? Baker said.
Aca,!A"But we also rely on many volunteers who need to be thanked for their services. Huntsville is a great military community of people who, when there is a need to be met, they will meet that need without wanting something in return.Aca,!A?
More information about Still Serving Veterans can be obtained at www.stillservingveterans.org.