Boots on Ground has helped so many vet’s in the area, but none of their work would be possible without the help of volunteers. JET 24’s Kristen Nielsen sat down with some of those dedicated to helping veterans in our region.
Pictures and trinkets decorate the desk of Venus Auzevedo-Laboda, the Founder and Executive Director of Boots on Ground. They show her late brother during his time as a service member. Memories are all she has left, but since the loss of her brother, she’s found purpose in helping other veterans return to civilian life.
One of those veterans, Brian Alexander, says, “Anytime I had any issues, I know all I had to do was pick up the phone.” Alexander now volunteers with Boots on Ground. This peer-to-peer mentoring is the main staple of the Boots on Ground program, pairing veterans in different stages of transition to help them readjust to everyday life. “I just want to be able to help my brothers,” he tells us.
Meghan Blood is also a volunteer for Boots on Ground. Not only was she raised in a military family, her husband is currently deployed. “Basically, what we’re coming up with, we’re trying to keep it more military oriented. It’s something that they’re used to… I honestly love it. I actually quit a paying job to volunteer here full time.”
Not only does this program help veterans, it also helps family members of those who have served. Auzevedo-Laboda tells us, “We have many, many family members that reach out to us before the veteran does. They are asking for help, support, ‘what do I do? What are the signs?'”
But, all this work wouldn’t be possible without the support of others. “Our community has just embraced and wrapped their arms around Boots on Ground. We would not be here if it wasn’t for the community,” says Auzevedo-Laboda.
If you or a loved one are a veteran looking for support, you can contact Boots on Ground by calling 814-878-2934, or by visiting their Facebook site here.