Veterans Trust Fund seeks help for ‘those who served’

Korean War veteran William Richardson , right, stands with other veterans as President of the Delaware Veterans Board Dave Skocik speaks at the Old State House on The Green in Dover on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — No spot in Dover is more reminiscent of the nation’s independence than The Green.

It’s said that 30 influential men from the state’s three counties gathered there to throw down the gauntlet to the British and dare them to oppose American independence.

To pay homage to the brave gestures of the forefathers and members of the armed forces, The Friends of Delaware Veterans held a gathering at The Old State House on The Green on Tuesday.

Dave Skocik, president of the group, reminded residents to take a moment during the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations to “remember the sacrifices veterans have made for their country.”

First State veterans’ role

“Much is said, and often unsaid, about the role all generations of First State veterans have played in establishing our freedom and who continue to guarantee it today,” he said.

“They include the farmers and townspeople who gathered on The Green to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776, through succeeding conflicts, right up through today.

“The Fourth of July is the day when we celebrate our freedom, not only in Delaware but across the country. But the reason we are able to celebrate is because of those who have served our great nation, including about 1.5 million who traded their tomorrow for our today.”

Mr. Skocik, a retired Navy chief petty officer, was joined by a cadre of other veterans at the event to encourage residents to consider making a donation to the Delaware Veterans Trust Fund. It’s a charitable trust administered by the Commission of Veterans Affairs to assist all generations of veterans in the state experiencing financial distress.

“Very simply, if we don’t support mom and dad, we cannot expect their children to continue their tradition of service,” said Mr. Skocik. “While we pass laws for specialty license plates, provide tributes, and build monuments to the men and women who have served and continue to serve our great nation, we often forget them when it comes to helping those in need.”

According to Larence Kirby, the executive director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, the Delaware Veterans Trust Fund is distributed to the state’s veterans in the form of requested one-time financial grants for things like utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, emergency home repairs, job training services or even putting food on the table for the veteran and his/her family.

“We have about 72,000 veterans living in the state and the trust was able to give out about $80,000 last year to those in dire need,” said Mr. Kirby. “I receive about 10 applications per week and accept around 60 percent of those due to some not being true financial emergencies.”

Helping hand for veterans

Mr. Kirby says the funds help former service members who may experience a “hiccup” in their lives and “need a hand to get back on track.” Particularly, he recalls the plight of a veteran who was attending Delaware Technical Community College when disaster struck.

“He was a few semesters away from graduating and getting a secure job, but then out of nowhere he got rear-ended in a traffic accident,” said Mr. Kirby. “His car was totaled and it put him in a wheelchair.

“Luckily, everyone came together and he was able to get help. We got him a ramp and through physical therapy he was able to eventually walk again.

DelTech worked with him and he eventually graduated and he got a job.

“These are the kind of good outcome stories we try for.”

Emergency grants

The trust receives applications from veterans ages 22 to 92, says Mr. Kirby, but most of them come from people in their mid-20s to early 30s for reasons usually related to poor financial management skills. In addition to an emergency grant, the applicants usually receive some financial training and the veteran affairs office helps them structure a “plan to land back on their feet.”

Mr. Kirby also notes veterans seeking assistance aren’t exclusively ones who’ve serve overseas — neither are they all male (approx. 7,000 of the state’s veterans are women).

“We tend to, as a society, have more empathy for those armed forces members who have served overseas, when in reality, all veterans need our empathy,” he said.

To donate or learn more about the trust, visit Delawareveteranstrustfund.com. More information about the Friends of Delaware Veterans is available by calling Mr. Skocik at (302) 270-7145 or by email at dskocik@aol.com.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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