Military Veteran Project moves into new home with Topeka Rescue Mission Space frees up more funds for foundation to help veterans in need
Posted: December 24, 2014 - 2:59pm
Melissa Jarboe, executive director of the Military Veteran Project, talks about the nonprofit's work recently in her new office in the Topeka Rescue Mission's building at 1208 N. Kansas Ave. The new office allows 100 percent of the group's efforts and donations to go back to veterans. MILITARY VETERAN PROJECT
To learn more about the Military Veteran Project’s work, donate to the foundation or sign up to volunteer, call (785) 633-2575 or visit www.militaryveteranproject.org.
But in the past three years, the foundation has received referrals from across the country through its social media outreach and the military network.
“We’re going to close out around 3,400 cases this year,” Jarboe said in an interview last week. “That’s huge.”
The foundation grew much faster than anticipated, Jarboe said. But her plans for it are growing quickly, too.
And, just in time for the holidays, the Military Veteran Project office now has a new home: it has relocated into part of a building owned by the Topeka Rescue Mission at 1208 N. Kansas Ave.
Barry Feaker, executive director of the rescue mission, said a partnership between the Military Veteran Project and the mission seemed to be a perfect fit.
Jarboe talked to Feaker several months ago to find out how she could engage veterans and help them reintegrate into society by serving at the mission. Feaker said he was surprised, and after that he started watching her organization closely. He was impressed.
Jarboe runs the foundation as a volunteer, along with one assistant, Jetaime Parker. All of its donations, grants and sponsorships go to helping veterans, so the added expense of paying $200 to $300 rent each month for office space at the Downtown Ramada didn’t fit the organization’s priorities. When Feaker learned Jarboe needed a new home for the foundation, he decided to help.
“I said, ‘If you need a home, we’ll find you a home,’ ” he recalled.
The mission acquired the building at 1208 N. Kansas Ave. about two years ago, Feaker said. It first was used for the mission’s Christmas distribution but was too small, so the distribution was moved elsewhere. Now, he said, the mission plans to turn the building into a training area.
When the mission offered Jarboe space on the building’s north side, “words couldn’t describe (the feeling),” she said.
“It was kind of exciting to us to know I don’t have to worry about heat, I don’t have to worry about electricity,” Jarboe said. “We’re going to have all of those things, so again, 100 percent of our efforts and donations can go right back to veterans.”
Many of the Military Veteran Project’s cases have come to them via social media. Case managers nationwide search social media to make contact with individuals struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal thoughts. Through Jarboe’s network, she can help struggling veterans with suicide prevention, connect them with a “battle buddy” through the Battle In Distress program, complete benefits paperwork or assist with a range of other services.
Even the paperwork doesn’t phase Jarboe and Parker.
“They may be hard to a civilian or someone suffering, but they’re really easy to us because we’ve done it a thousand times,” Jarboe said.
Jarboe’s foundation also is working with Colmery O’Neil VA Hospital to improve care for veterans with concerns. The foundation’s intake papers are so comprehensive, Jarboe said, that she also has run across cases where veterans have been prescribed medications with bad interactions. A handful of pharmacists are working with the foundation to double-check the medication lists and send them back to prescribing doctors for revisions, if necessary.
One recent case that came to Jarboe was a veteran from rural south-central Kansas who contacted the VA in Topeka worried that he might hurt himself or others. When he arrived in Topeka, he discovered the hospital had a 14-day hold, and he didn’t have a place to stay. He reached out to several organizations, but the Military Veteran Project was the only one that responded, Jarboe said.
“We got him temporary housing, got him connected with an outside civilian doctor and set him up with peer support,” she said.
Although Jarboe isn’t paid for her work, she receives $2,000 a month in dependency compensation from the military, and she made smart financial decisions during her former corporate career, she said. She doesn’t like to compete with other Topeka nonprofits for donations, so she hasn’t pushed for them.
“I just took care of it myself,” she said.
But now, she said, she needs to learn to ask for financial help. She plans to kick off a capital campaign in late 2015 to build a transitional housing project for veterans so they can slowly reintegrate into society after leaving the service.
“Instead of us flying all over the place, we want to start bringing them to Topeka,” Jarboe said.
Locations in Chicago, Virginia and Texas already have offered Jarboe 200-acre tracts for the facility, and architects in Chicago have offered their services. But Jarboe is holding out for support here in Topeka.
“Topeka is our center hub,” she said. “We have relationships here. I believe in Topeka, and I believe that Topeka will support it.”
Although the foundation’s relationship with the mission hasn’t been formalized, Feaker said he believes it will benefit homeless veterans. Representatives from the VA hospital already work with the mission, he said, but the partnership with MVP and Jarboe’s expertise will enhance that for veterans.
“Getting them reconnected with services sometimes can be a life-changer for them,” he said.
The memory of Jarboe’s husband remains strongly present in her work.
“I think, whatever I wanted to do for Jamie, I wanted to share with others to be able to do,” she said. “What I wish I could’ve done for Jamie, if I had the knowledge I have now, I can do for others because I can’t do it for him.
“So it’s like saving Jamie’s life a thousand times over.”
Samantha Foster can be reached at (785) 295-1186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Samantha on Twitter @samfoster_ks.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.