One organization is passing along the ultimate gift to another group. Jackie Roberts tells us how this partnership is benefiting the community.
As Venus Azavedo-Laboda unpacks on Peach Street, she remembers how it all started. “I know that it makes my brother proud and having our own place, we’re not going anywhere.” Phillip Azevedo died five years ago and that’s when Venus launched Boots On Ground, a non-profit providing services to veterans and their families.
She dedicates every day to helping others, but now she gets to be on the other side as another non-profit donates its office space, giving Boots On Ground a new place to call home. Denise Kolivoski, NAMI Executive Director, says, “Well, when a local businessman, Gene Wear, donated our current space to us, we wanted to pay it forward, so we selected Boots On Ground.”
Azevedo-Laboda, tells us, “I just started crying because you think, ‘who does that?'”
NAMI promotes the public understanding of mental health…and supports families suffering from mental illness. Kolivoski says Boots On Ground is an important community partner. “Everyday, 22 vet’s commit suicide and that’s an unacceptable number. As a community, we need to work together to improve that number; to provide education, advocacy, and support.”
The new facility has a classroom, something the Boots on Ground crew says helps accomplish their mission. Azevedo-Laboda says, “I plan on doing more of the PTSD, education awareness, and also suicide prevention.” Venus says the need for Boots On Ground is alive in the Erie area, and with a bigger space, their impact reaches a wider crowd. “It’s really an amazing, beautiful gift to be able to give to our vets.”
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.