Community Leaders Updated on Veterans Center of North Texas
Paul Hendricks is a man on a critical mission of mercy - a mission about which he is very passionate. Hendricks, who also serves as a Fairview Town Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem, is a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. He has dedicated himself to supporting the nation’s veterans, many of whom are in dire need of assistance and guidance. He, and those who volunteer with him at the non-profit (501 c 3) Veterans Center of North Texas (VCONT), have accrued an impressive record of achievement, actually it’s all rather remarkable.
On Feb. 1, 80 people attended a Community Leaders Breakfast in Fairview Town Center to receive an update from Hendricks about the Veterans Center of North Texas. Mayors, first responders, business leaders and nonprofit organizations from several towns and counties attended.
The VCONT was organized less than five years ago. Since 2015 it has served more than 3,000 of the 160,000 veterans who are located in the seven-county area surrounding Collin County. None of the staff of the VCONT, including Hendricks, receive any compensation; they are all equally passionate and share the same mission. The City of Plano provides 600 square feet of office space at a very favorable rent to the VCONT which allows the staff to interact on behalf of the veterans they assist with 200 agencies at the local, regional, state and federal levels.
Hendricks explains, “The VCONT is not about giving hand-outs. We are about giving a hand up. When a veteran comes to us for assistance, say he or she is having difficulty paying essential monthly bills such as rent, electricity, or car payments and such, we provide counseling to determine why they may be having financial difficulties. Sometimes it an unexpected job layoff, a divorce, illness, it’s a long list. We work with veterans to help them manage their situations more effectively. We probe in order to properly diagnose what the underlying problems may be and then provide appropriate support, direction, and counseling to change the current circumstances.”
An example that was cited during the breakfast was the case of Yusef, a post 9/11 Air Force veteran with a wife and small child looking for financial assistance. VCONT helped Yusef stabilize his finances by working with Family Endeavors (another nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower people to build better lives for themselves) to find subsidized housing and assisted Yusef to find a part-time job to augment his income. He was then able to enroll in college using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits in September 2018.
Another serious issue confronting many veterans is homelessness. There can be many different causes of homelessness especially in North Texas. “Most of us”, says Hendricks, “Are not aware of homelessness in Collin County but it is there”. Almost 500 people were identified as homeless following a recent audit. We must do a better job of helping them to improve their lives. Collin County, for example, has no emergency shelters to house the homeless especially on frigid winter nights or stifling summer nights. Fourteen per cent of the veterans in the seven-county area of Collin County are homeless and many of them are transported to Dallas where emergency shelters do exist.
The scope of services provided to veterans and their dependents by VCONT is broad and includes assistance with reintegration into civilian life, securing benefits, finding employment, arranging for education, addressing financial matters, obtaining health benefits, housing, legal and transportation.
While Hendricks is pleased with the progress that VCONT has made, he is quick to remind us that there is a vast need for more assistance. Persons wishing to volunteer just four hours a week at the Veterans Center in Plano to provide counseling and guidance; sponsors and donors who make the work of the Center possible; and of course, financial contributions from both businesses and individuals. Hendricks concluded the meeting by reminding everyone, “We really need your help”. The Veterans Center of North Texas can be contacted at (214) 600-2966
On Friday, April 26, the VCONT will host community leaders and veterans in their Fellowship Golf Tournament at Heritage Ranch Golf and Country Club in Fairview.