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Lee Ann Clark, St. Clair County Extension coordinator, says the funding, which was secured through the St. Clair County Commission, has enabled her office to continue providing outreach support to the veteran community.
“For more than a century, Cooperative Extension has been about providing effective, face-to-face outreach to people where they live and work,” Clark says. “And for this reason, we think we are especially well-suited to serve our county’s veterans, especially those in critical need of assistance.”
“The partnership between St. Clair County, the state of Alabama, and Alabama Extension, which is directed to assisting active military, National Guard and veteran families, reflects our combined commitment to those who provided our nation’s defense,” Lemme said. “Helping the families of these heroes access Veterans Affairs benefits that they have earned and providing resources to help them cope with the unique stresses of deployment and returning to home life will benefit not only those directly involved but also the entire community.
Veterans Outreach for St. Clair County will be the duties of Wayne Johnson, newly hired to lead these efforts.
“There is a critical need to connect veterans within communities, especially in small communities, to resources that can improve their financial well-being and their employment prospects. In many cases, it can be as simple as putting money in their pockets to tie them over as they make their transition back to civilian life,” Johnson said.
The challenges of transitioning to civilian life often prove even more daunting, if not insurmountable, for those veterans suffering from serious combat-related conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Among those veterans, timely effective outreach can mean the difference between successful transition to civilian life and one plagued by chronic unemployment, debt and, in many cases, substance abuse.
One of the main goals of the St. Clair Extension outreach effort is to reach these veterans with critical assistance before these patterns of behavior become self-destructive.
“My vision is to get out into the community and find veterans and widows of veterans that we don’t know about. I want to make them aware of the benefits that are available to them and hopes to make all veterans more aware of the numerous services and benefits available to them,” Johnson said.
“I plan to visit all the nursing homes,” he said. “Also, I not only want to talk to the elderly and middle-age veterans, but I also want to reach out to younger veterans.”
Considering the number of veterans in St. Clair County alone — some 7300 — an outreach program that presents veterans with viable treatment options potentially could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This unclaimed assistance not only would benefit the returning veterans but also the local economies where they live and work.
Any questions concerning this program or if you are a Veteran in need of assistance, please contact Wayne Johnson, Veterans Outreach Agent Assistant. He can be reached at the St. Clair County Extension Office by calling (205) 338-9416 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.