SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – In 2016, Goodwill Manasota launched the BRAVE (Benefits, Resources and Veterans Education) networking program. Through a partnership with the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee and Sarasota (WRC), the two organizations were able to make mental health care available for all local veterans at no cost. Now, thanks to funding being provided by SRQ VETS, Goodwill is thrilled to expand the availability of mental health counseling from one day per week to every day.
Every Wednesday since October 2016 at the Goodwill Veterans Resource Center (8490 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota), veterans have been invited to network with other veterans and work with a counselor from the Women’s Resource Center and Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program team. Program participants have also been able to enjoy the company of therapy dogs provided by Paws And Warriors Foundation. Up until this point, veterans were provided a group session with the counselor one day a week. Now, Individual sessions with counselors will be available by appointment to those involved with the program.
SRQ VETS, which was founded in 2015 by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bill Sterbinsky and other local veterans, is an organization that works on behalf of local veterans in need. SRQ VETS offers a broad range of assistance, including helping in the Veterans Court, the Veterans Filmmaking Academy, Operation Rubix, aiding veterans in need of transportation, home modifications for disabled vets, and much more. Its scope is broad but the focus is entirely on local vets, helping make a local impact. For his work on behalf of veterans in need, Sterbinsky was named one of Goodwill Manasota’s 2017 Community Ambassadors of the Year.
“We were very impressed with the goal of and services available through the BRAVE program but knew very well that one evening per week was not going to cover the extensive need for counseling of veterans in our area,” Sterbinsky said. “Our mission is to take resources donated or raised locally and reinvest in our local veteran community to directly help vets in need, or donate to partner local veteran organizations that will specifically use those resources to help our local veterans. We are thrilled to be able to make an investment in the BRAVE program and help area veterans have access to counseling each and every day.”
Many returning veterans suffer debilitating psychological wounds. Many more servicemen and women have been lost due to suicide than in combat. The system is overwhelmed by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 (20 percent) suffer from PTSD or major depression. The Department of Veterans Affairs also estimates that nearly 13,000 of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have alcohol dependence syndrome: in a survey of all veterans, 7.1 percent (1.8 million people) meet the criteria for a substance abuse disorder. A number of troubling statistics highlight the great need in our area to do more to help veterans struggling with mental health issues.
“Every day, 20 veterans take their own lives – that’s a suicide every 72 minutes,” said Goodwill Manasota president and CEO Bob Rosinsky. “Mental health services are essential in order to help veterans recover from their combat experiences and mental health issues related to their military service. The funding from SRQ VETS will greatly help to increase the effectiveness and reach of the program.”
The BRAVE program was initially started through a group of generous donors who donated $22 each to kick-start the effort; donations are still being accepted. For more information or to make a donation, visit experiencegoodwill.org/brave.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2017, Goodwill Manasota served 11,672 people, placed 555 people in jobs, assisted 360 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce, and provided 19,540 hours of on-the-clock training for its employees. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 41 million pounds out of the landfill. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org.