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2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Military & Veterans Organizations, Veterans

Mission: Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, Inc.'s mission is to empower Veterans navigating the transitions of life.

Results: Housing Programs Job Search Assistance Veterans Information Resource Case Management Services Referral Services

Target demographics: Provide housing, career development, supportive services, and wellness programming eligible local Veterans, service members, and their families

Direct beneficiaries per year: Serve over 6,500 Veterans, Service Members, and their families.

Geographic areas served: 30 counties in Central and Western Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio

Programs: Nine housing programs ranging from emergency shelter, bridge housing, rapid rehousing, to permanent housing; two employment programs to assist Veterans who are un/underemployed with employment opportunities; and four supportive service programs that provide emergency financial assistance, benefits assistance, a Veteran caregivers program, and a wellness program that assists Veterans in combating substance abuse and Post Traumatic Stress.

Community Stories

113 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

Trudy
I just wanted to take the time and tell you how much you are appreciated. Thank you for believing in me and being a part of my life. You mean the world to me.
Thank you,
Love you always
Tracey R.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Sam,
Just a quick line to say once again many thanks for all your support. I’m glad that you’re in my corner.
Best Wishes
Bob B

Client Served

Rating: 5

I cant thank you enough, ken . Thank you, thank you, thank you. You and your organization has truly helped a vet that was down on his luck. I know my situation is only temporary. Thank God for your organization and those like it, who help the men and women who served this country.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Ms. India,
I hope that you are in good health and doing well. I wanted to thank you and the Veterans Leadership Program for all the help you have given to me. The assistance you gave me is greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Kimberly. C

Client Served

Rating: 5

Ms. Beth,
I just wanted to touch base with you to let you know that I am still going strong and paying my bills and staying sober and loving life to the fullest, because of GOD and of course you and the SSVF program. So thank you for your time and effort you put in me it really was a great blessing. So thanks again.
The Johnson Family.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Dear Mike Bodis,
Thank you so much for coming to South Hills Middle School and presenting to our students. You really made a lasting and positive impression on them. South Hills Middle School Loves You.

Jade Fiore, Jordan Vachon

Client Served

Rating: 5

To: Amy McCoy , Mike Bodis and all of the VLP Staff,
I am writing this in regards to the assistance that has been provided to me in a time that was needed for me. I can’t express in words how grateful I am for what was done for me. As president JFK said in one of his most famous speeches “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your county”. I must say if there is anything that I can ever do to help support your program PLEASE let me know.
Thank you very much,
Callie Stinson Sr.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Mr. Haynes
I am writing this letter to show my appreciation for what Veterans Leadership Program did for me. In extreme stress and hardship, I was able through the support and dedication of your organization to acquire adequate housing. Being an independent female Veteran it means alot to not become a growing part of the homelessness our veterans face. Because of your organization, I am able to keep my job and work to help other female veterans and women in their time of need, eliminate some of the barriers they face in their lives. And to you personally Mr. Haynes, I want to thank you so much for your time and patience in understanding my immediate crisis and handling it with pleasant calmness. I truly appreciate your support, understanding and dedication to get the problem solved. Because of you, I now have my own address.
If I can be of serve to help and support your organization, pleases dont hesitate to call me. I am honored to be connected to an organization that believes in taking care of its own. Again, I thank you so much for helping a Veteran in need.
Sincerely,
Sharon L. Robinson

Board Member

Rating: 5

Having been associated with The Veterans Leadership Program, formerly the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, for 25 years I know the great work this organization does and has done these many years. Serving on the board and as board chairman I have been closely involved and know how many veterans and their families have been helped. There are literally hundreds of testimonials from clients praising the men and women who work day in and day out to help veterans in need. It is understandable why VLP is recognized as a great non-profit.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a five star organization and I salute the leaders and staff for the great work that they do!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Dear Mr. Mercer
My name is Lisa Gonzales. I am a client with the VLP and the Victory Housing Program. I am writing to you to express my deepest and most sincere gratitude for all that the program and my case manger have done for me and my children. I honestly could not have the life that I have with my children without the assistance from your employees. I am a 40 yr old single mother of a 2 ½ old girl and a 16 month old boy. I am a full time student at Carlow University and I am a licenses tax preparer. I am about to start my sophomore year in college majoring in Social Work. Without your program I would never ever have been able to attend school, therefore I would not be able to better the future for myself and my children. I thank you guys so much for that.
My 1st Case Manger was Dan Pacura. He was awesome. He got me accelerated to the program. He was so knowledgeable and resourceful about social services that were very beneficial to me. From utility assistance program to food banks, to furniture and clothes for the kids and credit counseling. I can’t even begin to say how terrific I think he is. Now my current case manager is Serena Holt. She always has time for me and offers her assistance to me with whatever she can whenever she can. She is a big player in my support system and she is also very knowledgeable and resourceful in her job as well. She is one of my guardian angels  . Sir, I really can’t express to you the full scope of my gratitude to VLP with mere words. You have awesome, terrific people there doing a fantastic job and you should know that. Even the people who answer your phones are kind, courteous and helpful. For all that you guys do is incredible.
Id like to try and give back in some small way for the short term .I would offer some volunteer time in the near future to my fellow veterans with regards to income taxes. I would donate some time to answer questions, explain basic tax laws (Dos and Donts) and show how to do their own taxes online for free, both federal and state. That’s the least I can do right now. When I graduate in 2016, look for my resume at VLP, because you have a terrific program that really, really helps people and that is why I chose my major to be social work. I have been helped by so man and all I want to do is help others.
Again Sir, please give all your people a pat on the back. They truly deserve it. Thanks again to everyone there. God Bless

Sincerely,
Lisa Gonzales

Client Served

Rating: 5

To whom it may concern,

This is a letter to give notice as to the services I have received from VLP and how I became to be involved with them.
My name is Carla Suber and I am an Army Reservist Veteran, the mother of six children with full custody of my three minor children. As a victim of domestic violence by my estranged husband I was awarded full custody of my three youngest children and a three year probation from abuse order.
My children and I were able to escape my husband but had to move into an apartment that was less than suitable with a leasing company that is nothing more than a corporate slumlord. I rented from them for one year. I became involved with VLP hen after being assure by the property manager that although my lease was up on july 1st of this year, they would rent to me on a month to month basis until the end of august if I had not found another place to move into. (We were living in a duplex, but it was a 1 bedroom with an enclosed porch). Well on the 10th of June I received notice that my lease would no be extended post July 1st and that I had to move out of the property on that date. Not only myself but the renter of the other duplex also.
I was already having difficult times finding housing that was adequate for my family and it did not improve the entire month of June. I had one week left before I had to leave the apartment and I had no where to go! No place to take my children!! We were homeless once again. Then a former co worker of mine told me about VLP. From the moment I had my first meeting with the staff, I knew that God had sent me his Angels to help me. Ms. Holt, Mrs. Payne and the entire staff who were assigned to assist me worked tirelessly to make sure my children and I had a place to call home.
The housing program I moved my family into with a 3 bedroom house is in a quiet neighborhood. Instead of sleeping on pallets on the floor we have brand new beds because of VLP.
For me and my family, the Veterans Leadership Program was there for me when no other programs would help me. They said they care about Military Veterans and have helped me more than churches or anywhere. My friend and VLP was the answer to the many tear filled prayers of fear and desperation. Now the tears I have shed are joy filled and full of thanksgiving
The Veterans Leadership Program is defiantly a piece of heaven on earth for Veterans in need.
- Carla.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I was approached by Serena Holt to rent one of my properties to a Navy Veteran. She helped me realize what a valuable service VLP offers to these Veterans and the community. I was touched by her concern for the Veterans children and their well being. I felt food that I could offer a safe and secure place to both the children and the Veteran. Thank you VLP for what you do.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Prior to coming into VLP I was homeless with my 3 kids and living at a friends. The friend told me I needed to be out now. The VA told me about a program at VLP and since then I have be enrolled in a housing program and working the steps to becoming self sufficient once again. Not only have I received housing but VLP on multiple time gave me resources to assist with my rehabilitation. I am extremely grateful for all of VLP’s assistance and with out Serena and their help, I would be on the streets with my family.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Hi Karen,

Thanks for getting back to me. Seeing your email gave me a warm feeling in my heart. I am so grateful for all the help I got from VLP. I was on the brink of despair and disaster there for awhile, and just having the sense that I could get help if I really did fall off the edge made all the difference in the world. Now my interest is giving back :-) !

I would like to have a table, but I will put the voluteer flyer up and I feel certain some of my patients will want to volunteer. Hope all is going well with you.

All the best,

Ellen

Client Served

Rating: 5

I just want to thank Ken so very much for his assistance and his time. Also the kindness you have shown me. I greatly appreciate it and you. It really blesses me and I thank God and you for everything.
Best Wishes
Bill Shomo

Client Served

Rating: 5

If it was not for VLP and Jack my life would be severely dark with no hope for the next day. I so desperately want to get a job in Social Work again. My dream is to buy a house in Brentwood for my children. I hope when they are teenagers they might live with me and even live with me while in college. My children are everything to me and the help VLP is giving me is giving me the hope I need for these dreams to come true.
Sincerely, and Gratefully
Eric T. Jackson

Client Served

Rating: 5

I really would like to thank Robert Davis in assisting me in getting me into my new place. I am moved in and enjoying it very much. You guys are an awesome team.
Thanks again,
Bridget Burgwin

Client Served

Rating: 5

I would like to say thank you to VLP for even giving me the chance to get a job and helping me become gainfully employed.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Amy,
I just wanted to take a second to thank you again for your time and very kind assistance. You and Ken have blessed me and I thank the lord for both of you. God bless you always. Sincerely and Best Wishes Bill S.

Edwin S.

Client Served

Rating: 4

when I came to the vlp, I just lost my job a d have two kids to raise, as a single father I fear that we would lose the apartment and be on the streets. Karen Payne and Mik Bodis help me wit h housing and fi ding employment. They have been a great source of help to me a d many veterans. Providing assistqnce and resources to avoid ma y of us to fall rougb the cracks. I don't know where I and my boys be without them. I support the veterans leadership program and highly recommend i as a source for veterans like me that have fallen interesting hard times. Edwin J. Sostre

Client Served

Rating: 5

Mr. Mercer,
Butch and VLP really came through for me when I was homeless and needed assistance with money. I am a client of VLP. Butch is my case manager and I wanted to tell you all how much I appreciated the Tribute to Veterans even on the 25th. It was very well organized and thoughtful. I was extremely proud to be a Veteran . Vlp is the best and its people are the best.
Regards,
Bob. B

Client Served

Rating: 5

As I sat in my apartment, I looked around and I cried. I know VLP are doing their jobs. Not just doing their job because it takes more than book knowledge to do the job they do. You honestly care. For that this is my way of saying thank you. Mary, Karen and dan are caring and sharing and to the 3 of you and the staff I say a personal Thank you. Last nut certainly not lease, a very special thanks to “the man” my god for putting you all in my life.
Always,
James

Client Served

Rating: 5

To all the staff at VLP “the nicest office in Pgh”
Thanks for the wonderful year, it was awesome. I learned a lot and appreciated all your support once again. A great xmas party give back to the clients was appreciative. I’m most grateful. Ready to fly on my own, you all are truly the wind beneath my wings. May you all be safe and thank you.
Sincerely,
C.N

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I want to personally thank Diane Mandell for her time and hospitality that she showed me when I came in yesterday for my interview for the Housing Case Manager position. It was a real pleasure meeting her and the rest of VLP. The first person you encounter in an organization really sets the tone for the rest of the time you work with that organization. Diane really made me feel at home and welcomed.
Thank you,
Daryl

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering for the past 3 years off and on at VLP events. I have never come across a group of individuals who genially care for Veterans the way they do. I have personally seen them come together as a team in a moment of crisis involving a homeless Veteran. They got him off the street into a house and started working on getting him a job. Every Veteran is treated with dignity and respect no matter if you served 20 years and 5 combat tours or 30 days and was discharged. It’s been an honor to volunteer with VLP and I will definitely continue to do so. Veterans served their country, now its time for us to serve them.
Sincerely,

Colleen G.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I want to thank Mike Bodis and the team of VLP. Thank you so much for representing the Military and speaking at our recent Military Day assemblies. It was a privilege to have you and your agency participate in the program and have the opportunity to honor you and all the others who serve our country. Thank you too you and all of your team for the good work you continue to do with Veterans of all kind.
Sincerely,
Daniel Z.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been a client for several years with many different housing programs in the community. I am a Army veteran. I also tackle a mental health and drug addiction diagnosis. I was in VLP housing programs for several years. With their assistance and personal caring from all the staff including my case manager Mike Bodis. Karen was amazing with me when I was looking for employment. Butch was the first person I met in housing and was always there when I needed him. I could talk about everyone and how much they helped me, but there isnt enough room for that. I was able to secure a job with the local federal government. If it wasn’t for all the people at VLP and the personal touch they give, I would of never been able to be where I am now, which is helping other Veterans. Personally I thank you for everything.

-James S. Army Veteran.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am so genuinely grateful for all of the assistance VLP has provided me through their program. I honestly did not know how I was going to finish nursing school, especially as part time employment and a 48 yr old father. It is in no small part that through their offices help that I was able to graduate Nursing School and will soon obtain my Bachelors Degree in Nursing. I have struggled over the past 2 years to work toward being able to provide a stable home for my two daughters. (9 and 6). Now that I have recently been blessed with a position as a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric ICU hospital at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, it was their assistance that helped me afford to finish my education in my time of need and for this I thank them. As I begin caring for the ill children of families that are facing their own struggles I will always be grateful for VLP. The generosity, consideration and caring of the entire team has been a god send. The team members will always be in my prayers and I sincerely thank them for all the assistance.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The lord puts people in your life for many different reasons. Vlp was put in my life as my "missiah", my savior. Thank you all so much for what you have done for me. I pray you will be truely blessed

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is to tell you how great and appreciative I am for everything you done. Thank you.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Thanks to VLP so much for the help. Everyone there was helpful and supportive. We really appreciate everything. Hopefully I can return the favor in kind one day. Hope all of them take care and god bless. (GO NAVY)

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Just little ol’ me, Oreo, the Service Dog
Hi, I am Kxxxx Pxxxxxx. I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. In the middle of this picture is my service dog, Oreo. He is a 5 ½ year old Cockapoo. Oreo is a very special little dog. Not just because he is a service dog. It is how he became one that is the story. You see Oreo did not come from any special training school, or chosen from birth to serve others. No, Oreo decided to become a service dog all on his own.
In July, 2010, I was riding my bicycle to work that morning. I was struck by a SUV going the wrong way up the cross street. I never saw her coming. The impact tossed my body 15ft into the air, over the cable wires and landing on my face and hands. It left me with a shattered hip, pelvis, the left side of my face, eye socket shattered and both hands shattered. I went to the hospital; Oreo was taken to his former owner’s house. No one knew what condition I would be in if I lived. I was in the hospital for some time in ICU. Then when it was time for surgery I was transferred to a Nursing home to wait for my replacement hip surgery. In the nursing home you can see animals. So I asked if they could bring Oreo for me to see. Ohhh, what a reunion! Oreo yapped and danced all over the room. The excitement was a little too much for me so I went and lay down. Oreo jumped up on the bed. Starting with my right foot, he sniffed out every injury done to my body. He sniffed out every cut and every bruise. Then he softly climbed up on my chest and stared at me. The room fell silent. No one knew what he was going to do. He just stared at me with a concentrated and determined stare. Then he laid his head down under my chin and that was it. So I thought like everyone else, right? Wrong! It was only the beginning.
Another month later, I am sent home. Within a day I got a hospital bed, potty chair, nurses, aides, PT, OT, all going on in my home. My living room is now a hospital room and my dining room the PT/OT area and potty chair. For a good while Oreo was the only thing between me and whoever came in through that door. He was my only means of defense. While folks was coming and going, Oreo stayed somewhere where he could see but not be under foot or shoed away. For a week or two everything was done for me and I had helped almost every day if not every other day. But it came, the day I needed help and no one was there. In the wee hours of the morning, I had to go to the potty. My body was aching badly and everything was hard to do. So I lowered the head of the bed and began to pull the covers off. This is not ease with two broken hands. All of a sudden Oreo jumps up on the bed, sees what I am trying to do. He starts pulling the covers off the bed for me. So not quite paying attention to what just happened I start to move my right leg by lifting it with my left leg and moving to the edge of the bed. Oreo goes to the left side of my leg and starts pushing it to the edge of the bed. I am like…..OKAY?! Oreo jumps down and positions himself under my legs so my right leg will rest on his back when I swing over. I am thinking to myself, “is this for real?” He holds my leg and I get my balance to get up. He walked with me and my walker to the potty and back. Same thing happened getting into bed too. When all was down he laid down on my right side by the injury. His body heat was wonderful. Several weeks of this goes by with him including helping me to get dressed. I decided to call someone, anyone to help me understand what is happening to my dog.
I called The Association of Disabled Americans (ADA), they told me to call a dog trainer and see if he fits the standard of Service dogs. So I call FETCH. I told them what was happening, the sent someone out. She stayed for 3 hours. She watches Oreo on leash, off leash and in the home. We talked a long time. She told me that he believes he is working now to help you. This is why you cannot get him to leave your side for anyone. No one will be able to walk him while you are here. It is his duty to look after you now; it is his decision, not training. He is your Service Dog. I called ADA and told them what she said and they conferred on him Service dog status.
Now for him to have all the privileges of a Service Dog would not have happened if not for Mike Bodis and Veterans Leadership Program of W. Pa. They heard my story and the cost of the uniform for Oreo plus his certification. Mike took the information and in a matter of a few weeks of getting Oreo’s information it was done. Not only did Oreo get his uniform, he received his certification diploma. Now Oreo and I have many adventures together.
Now I must say that this is not every dog. There are standards that a dog must be able to perform in order to be qualified for this status. Even though Oreo can do the basics I do have him in training for more. I want him to do more than the basics and so does he. But for now He is just my little ol’ Service Dog Oreo.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Hello my name is Kevin and I’ve been a member of VLP for just about a year now. Let me give you just a little glimpse of my life over the past year or 80. First I came to the VLP when I was still living under a bridge. At that time I talked with Karen who helped me get some winter clothes. I then got hooked up with Mike to see about getting off the streets. Mike got me started and I found a perfect place for my daughter and me. We got started the paperwork but then I got notice that my case manager was changing to Serena. I got very worried because I didn’t know this person. She told me that the VLP would only cover 700 instead of 750 a month. Then I had to go to the landlord and beg him to change the lease amount. He agreed. So now I was off and running. We got the paperwork done and after the inspection I moved in in Feb 2010. Things stated looking up, but I still didn’t know what to think about Serena. She seemed nice though very straight arrow. This was my first impression of her. But what I didn’t see was how warm and hard working she was. Serena has been helping me ever since. She has been there for me more times than I can count. Serena has been there anytime I needed someone to talk to and more times than what I needed. She got out whatever was troubling me and then I got a swift kick in the ass to get me back to living for the future. Serena has helped me with getting transportation so that I could see my daughter. Without the VLP and Serena I would not be able to see my daughter. You don’t know how much that means to me. That girl is my world. Serena has helped me with getting a 20$ gift card for giant eagle. It is very hard living on only 20$ a week but it is much better than having nothing. Serena has done so much more for me that I could use this whole page if I listed it all. Basically this is to thank you for having her on the staff. Serena has helped me so much and I can only imagine that she is like this with others. Serena is wonderful and the VLP is so lucky to have her
Thank you,
Kevin

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a greatful client of the Veterans Leadership Program, they have done a wonderful job at getting me back on my feet. I had almost given up on myself, but VLP did not. My case manager, Mike Bodus was a God send and a perfect repersentative of the organazation. I own them a great deal that I can't pay so I hope this speaks to my debt. Thank all the staff at Veterans Leadership Program for all their help. Melody Mganga

Client Served

Rating: 5

To whom it may concern. I am writing this letter to express my appreciation for VLP being there to help me during a time of hardship. I was homeless and left with very little income. Mike Bodis and the other staff at VLP were more than helpful in assisting me in not only finding housing but taking care of the rent until I was able to do it myself. For that I am extremely grateful and I recommend them to any veteran in need of assistance. This program is truly a blessing. Thanks again.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

I can not put into words how much they have helped me. I’m sure I would have been homeless without their help. Even after my time was up in the program and I developed severe arthritis in my knees, they went the extra mile to help me get back on my feet. I can’t say enough about the dedication and professionalism that I have witnessed and been apart of from the staff. Especially my case manager Mike Bodis.

Sincerely
Nick Tomson

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I sat down to write a letter of gratitude that I have for Veteran's Leadership Program. Then I quickly realized that this page cannot hold all the goodness I can say. All the employees are so cordial and treat everyone with such high regards. The housing case mangers that I personally know have picked me up and gave me such a renewed feeling of self worth and assuredness. Mike Bodis and Dan Pacura gave me hope. When I see Mike Bodis either at my place or in the office he always has that personality of eagerness and selflessness that just rubs off on me and makes me feel good to be around him. I feel that both Dan and Mike would do anything possible for you to restore your dignity in you which we as Veterans all deserve.

Yours with Honor and Respect,
John Cready.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Clarence Nickles. I'm an honorable Marine Veteran. I want to take this moment and give thanks to the VLP and all the staff thats been a touchstone in my life. They encouraged belief and faith. They've given opportunities to move ahead with my life after so many years of not having choices. The VLP staff are a union of caring people who are committed to reaching out and assisting people who need the confidence and help. I had no idea where I was going or what would happen next until the day I walked into VLP. I knew it was going to be alright, there is a lot of good in society and I didn't feel so vulnerable any more. They helped me secure my very first apartment, stayed with me well over a year making ends meet. Giving me the opportunity to plan and succeed. Like everybody else I still have a journey to finish but having the security and the peace of mind knowing that I have a home to go to, food to eat and a job to work sure makes my life filled with gratitude. And I could write hundreds of pages and it would still not say thank you all. Especially Kim Marshall who really showed an example of the VLP and its mission making a difference in someone else's life. Followed by Ken McCoy who carries the tradition very well. One conversation with him and you know he is for real. What gentleness, compassion kindness and patience. Thank you Ken. I rekindled that Veteran pride after 30 years. And thank you all who work to support VLP behind the scenes finding freedoms for all who walk through your doors. It's never to late for hope, to change your life, no matter how dim. Today I stand tall, walk tall with humility. Thank you all for serving your brother. Mary, Dan, Karen, Al, Shawn from Clarence Nickles, from the best part of my heart, thank you so very much. Clarence Nickles

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Mr. Mercer, I know it sounds like a cliché, but I do not know where to begin. Did it start on March 26, 2008, when I came into the Veterans Leadership Program (VLP) to see if I could receive some transportation assistance? In my heart of hearts I know that when I opened that door it was a door leading to assistance in raising my quality of life. I went from seeking transportation to look for housing --- to being taken off the streets and placed in the VLP Housing Program. I went from not knowing how I was going to support myself to being assisted and advised by the VLP staff; which enabled ME to take the steps necessary to receive my disability. Thanks to VLP, “MY apartment” has good quality furniture. I have just completed by first semester at The Community College of Allegheny County (GPA 3.5). The only reason I was even capable of attempting that was because of the “you can do it” support I received from the VLP personnel. They made me want to push to better myself, to accomplish what I could with the help of the VLP. So as I set here at my Dell computer, (purchased by VLP), I ask myself one question: Am I someone special that VLP would give the continuing support, to have put in the time, the effort, to go the extra mile for? YES!!! I am a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces, and like all my fellow Veterans I am eligible and welcome to the effort that VLP makes in our goal of achieving transition in the civilian sector. For all Veterans, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Do you remember when you were a kid and dared to dream, and believed in Santa Claus? Well for Veterans VLP is our Santa and they are going above and beyond to help us make our dreams become a reality. So I write all of this to say THANK GOD!!! for bringing Dan, Karen, Mike, Loma, Shawn, Ken, Scott, Jesse, Victoria, and Gina, into my life; and a very special thanks to Mary Evans. In Sincere Appreciation; James Whaley”

23

Client Served

Rating: 5

This letter is a sincere thanks for all the help the Veterans Leadership Program and its fine staff have give me. This help has enabled me to reestablish my place in the Pittsburgh community. Struggling with psychological and addiction problems, I became homeless after several nervous breakdowns. After being remanded to the Allegheny County Jail for unusual disruptive behavior, I attended the Dual AD Program at Mercy Hospital I was diagnosed with debilitating depression and anxiety disorders compounded by alcohol use. At this point after having worked all my life, the greater part as a degreed Professional, I was homeless and was not sure how to proceed. I completed the program at Mercy and landed up in a very unsatisfactory and somewhat dangerous place to live. My only income was a small stipend from the Pennsylvania Welfare System. At this point I discovered the Veterans Leadership Program of WPA and requested their help in turning my life back around. I joined the program and attended meetings and clinics. These services included drug testing that was helpful in keeping me on track toward regaining my independence. With guidance and positive reinforcement from the many case managers and counselors at the VLP, I was able to establish my Veterans disability eligibility and Social Security eligibility for my disability. I am now on full disability through the Social Security Administration and although it is not recommended that I return to stressful work, I am certainly able to be financially independent and content. Thanks to the VLP Housing Program assistance I now have a very nice, quiet, and safe place to live. I have been able to maintain a paid for automobile and pay my bills. Thanks to the VLP Living Assistance program, I received basic necessities when I could not afford them myself. With the recommendations of VLP staff, I entered the Veterans Health Care system and with there thorough testing identified a severe heart problem, received hearing aids, an eye exam, and based on my situation most of this care is at no cost. As an older Navy Veteran (1969 – 75) I truly appreciate all the assistance rendered by the VLP. I especially thank Dan Pacura - Liberty Case Manager/Valor Case Manager for his guidance and assistance in housing matters. He helped me through some very difficult situations. To all your staff, I express my gratitude and hope I live well and meet your expectations of me. Sincerely, Bob Adams

25

Client Served

Rating: 4

I was in the housing program and it helped me out alot. But then I get a new case manager whose not helpful. I apreciate what VLP has done for me. But I don't like my new case manager because he is rude and a real smart alick. I am happy that they helped me but am happy to done to.

25

Client Served

Rating: 5

04/02/2008 To whom it may concern, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ken and the VLP, and the organization, its donors, and you. Here’s why: My husband Michael is a veteran of the Navy, having served in Desert Storm. He returned, found the best job he could, and we started our family. We have four children, ages 12, 9, 4 and 1. I stopped working when our oldest started school, paying for daycare meant almost my entire pay. We’ve struggled, but managed until 5 months ago. Our hot water tank blew out from the bottom, with no warning, flooding our home Thanksgiving Day. Christmas Eve, our furnace died. Weeks ago our only vehicle broke down. Our oldest daughter became ill, and our 9 year old son is undergoing major dental reconstruction. Bus routes cut, we need a vehicle. Insurance won’t cover the dental work, it’s a must but the insurance thinks it’s cosmetic. Being paycheck to paycheck, we became buried. I applied and receive WIC but welfare states Michael makes $40 to much a month to receive food stamps. We receive food bank items, purchase discounted groceries at several places and are on the CAP and Li-Heap programs but it’s still not enough. Our mattresses became so bad we began sleeping on the couch and floor. This began affecting our children. I reached out to local churches, the Network of hope, and the Salvation Army to be told they had no funds. Someone referred me to the VLP. Ken immediately offered to help. He came to our home and was one of the most polite individuals I’ve met in some time. He didn’t criticize, nor look down on us at all. I can’t express our gratitude to the organization enough. There isn’t, regardless of what the media states, many options for Vets, especially married Vets who end up down on their luck. Ken could have turned us down, yet he didn’t. He became our “hero” when we needed one. It frustrates us at times, that Mike did all he could overseas, works hard here now and that so many groups couldn’t help us when we needed it most. VLP has. Our never ending thanks goes out to VLP and Ken, and we pray and hop that if another Veteran family needs help that they can and will continue their mission. Best Wishes The Belotti Family Posted by K McCoy with permission from Tammy Belotti

15

Client Served

Rating: 5

To: Ken McCoy & The Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pa. My name is Keith Sanders and I just wanted to take a minute to thank your program for all its help. From the first day, the VLP has changed my life as a veteran. I went to Empire Beauty School in October of 2006 and graduated in November of 2007. I didn't have the resource when I returned to my home town of Pittsburgh to pay for the last month of school. A fellow veteran told me about this extraordinary program that has since been a life-saving experience for me. The VLP program has allocated the resource for my apartment(first month and security deposit!). I never expected or even imagined that kind of help. The last month of my school was also paid with the help of the VLP. The blessings don't stop there. Once I moved into my new apartment my council, Ken McCoy made sure that I received a new bed(I have a chronic back injury,sustained while on Airborne training). Then he and the VLP made sure to get in touch with another agency that provides furniture for my new place. The VLP is too good to be true. The Veterans Leadership Program has made me proud to say I'm a veteran. Their kindness and goodwill is evident by each and everyone working there. I want to tell anyone and everyone what a "wonderfully program" this truly is. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I wish the VLP continued success as they strive to help veterans succeed in their endeavors. I wish I could be the poster child or in this case the "Poster-Vet" for this outstanding Program. These accolades are well earned and deserved. Thank You, Keith Sanders Prior Service US Army

16

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Every November, Veterans Day provides a special day for grateful Americans to thank and honor military men and women for their sacrifices in service to our Nation. On the Southside of Pittsburgh, workers for the non-profit agency, Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, Inc. (VLP), get their opportunity to serve veterans every day. With a staff of 14 full time workers, many of them veterans, the office at 2417 East Carson Street provides assistance to veterans who are in need of housing and employment. Their mission statement serves as both a brief description of the organization and ouotlines its vision as advocate in serving the veteran community: OUR MISSION- Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania helps veterans address their needs by cultivating opportunities and developing options for their growth in the community. Veterans Leadership Program does this by providing assistance to unemployed, underemployed, and homeless veterans and their immediate families. With VLP working collaboratively with big agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Pennsylvania's Department of Labor, the question raised was one of accessibility. Does the VLP provide the bridge from asking to receiving; the bridge over the river of red tape that deters some veterans from seeking assistance? Does the center provide a place where all of the necessary resources come together to provide those services? The answer is a resounding yes. One of the simples questions I asked while volunteering was what would happen if all caseworkers were out of the office when a needy veteran walked in for assistance? The policy simply states that no one would be turned away. Whoever was in the office would provide the intake assistance. AGENCY HISTORY - Many Vietnam Veterans Leadership Programs (VVLP) were established throughout the United States in 1982; however, after the three year federal funding ended, many of these programs vanished. The Southside office was started by progressive Vietnam Veterans from the Pittsburgh area and survived through the hard work of the staff, together with the dedicated leadership of board members. In 1993, the program expanded to include the PA Highlands area by opening an office in Johnstown at the Hiram G. Andrews Center. In 2005, the name was changed from Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program to its current name, Veterans Leadership Program, to reflect their effort including veterans of very service era and those serving during peacetime. Membership in veterans programs is distinct and may be available with a Defense Department (DD) Form 214 proving military service. The social need for veterans' service organizations is great in Pennsylvania. With over 300,000 veterans residing in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this region has the second highest per capita concentration in the United States (vlpwpa.org). HOMELESSNESS -Nationally, the need for non-profit transitional housing programs will increase dramatically based on the latest reports. An article appearing in our local paper, The Beaver County Times, cites Veterans Affairs Department data showing 1,500 current-war homeless veterans, with 400 of those participating in programs that specifically target homelessness. Younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are already "trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help finding a job" (Associated Press 2007). According to Daniel Tooth, director for veterans affairs for Lancaster County, they will have a "tsunami of them eventually, because of mental health toll from this war is enormous" (AP2007). Repeated deployment in current-war veterans is only one of the many reasons for loss of income; other reasons can include disability, family breakdown, and substance abuse. The statistics are surprising because Vietnam Veterans, who make up the largest share (42.4%) of homeless veterans, took about a decade before their lives began to "unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless"(AP). Community based non-profit, "vets helping vets" groups, which provide transitional housing programs work best for the homeless veteran population. In Allegheny County, veterans account for 22% of the more than 2,000 people that are homeless (Allegheny County DHS, 2007) each night. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has the principle responsibility for overseeing programs for homeless veterans in Pennsylvania, the VA has only 332 funded beds. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans estimtes that from the "400,000 veterans homeless at some time during the year, the VA reaches 25% of those in need...leaving 300,000 veterans who must seek assistance from local government agencies and service organizations in their communities" (nchv.org) Like most successful non-profits, the collaborative efforts of federal and state agencies help with funding needed programs like VLP. There is clearly a future social need for service organizations like VLP whose mission includes their very central their very central task of addressing the social impact of homelessness in their local veteran communities. Veterans Leadership Program provides a caring community service that helps struggling veterans retain their dignity, disallowing the "conveyor belt" pattern that bureaucracy can sometimes create. FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS In their effort to attack the very real problem of veteran homelessness, VLP offers several different transitional housing program. Scattered site housing, located in safe neighborhoods where transportation and community amenities are available is built-in to all of the current 6 specific programs. Federal and State grants set guidelines for the programs and for participant number. For example, the "VICTORY HOUSING PROGRAM provides housing to 15 homeless disabled veterans with dependent children" (Housing Programs, VLP). PENN FREE BRIDGE HOUSING PROGRAM is funded with Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SAPTBG); overseen by the PA Dept of Public Welfare, Office of Social Programs." This program serves those in drug and/or alcohol recovery with their targeted population either men or women with or without children. The program requires completion of a treatment program, being in recovery, and having six months clean for placement (HP, VLP). The U.S. Department of Labor's The Homeless Veterans Employment and Training Program (HVET) provides grants for the other part of VLP's mission: employment and training assistance providing "job search assistance, education and training stipends and supportive services" (Employment Programs, VLP) Included are: vocational counseling, workshops, and regular job fairs and employment placement follow up. One-on one client counseling assesses skills, abilities, experience, and interest. Twice weekly, a resume workshop is held at the Center. Case management is listed as the key component of service that begins" with the intake process and includes setting goals in the area of life skills, financial management, parenting skills, home maintenance, job preparation skills and/or employment" (HP, VLP). This is the accessible bridge of asking to receiving services that begins with intake and continues with follow up. Like most non-profit agencies, VLP looks to the community for support. VLP is listed in the United Way's Contributor choices. Private donor contributions and collaborative government agencies work with VLP's valuable human capital for growth and leadership. They include the Executive Director, Staff, volunteer Board of Directors and Honorary Advisory Board. Adjunct volunteer help and educational internship is welcomed to help contribute to their mission. VOLUNTEER ACTIVITES -My volunteer activities included answering the main front desk phone in the lobby, taking the mail to the drop box, and greeting people when walked into the center. Calls from the Pittsburgh VA, the Housing Authority, or the United Way would come in through the main phone. Often, first time veteran callers would ask about services. These calls would be routed to intake specialists, who assist with the initial application. After this initial interview, the applicant would be assigned to a specialist caseworker who followed them through the program. Due to strict privacy policies, I did not sit in on any intake interviews. The front lobby was often busy with women and children; other times representatives from agencies would drop items off or clients would arrive for their appointments. Once, a middle aged man, who often walked by the center, came in to "check it out". Like many of the participants, he was a Vietnam War Era Veteran, who was in job transition and needed new skills. The center could help him with the computer classes he needed. A computer room, adjacent to the lobby, provides free access to the internet for job searches and provides bulletin boards overflowing with job fairs and information pertaining to housing and employment needs. The daily Pittsburgh paper and current employment guide papers were always on the table next to free coffee in the lobby waiting area. Retail products like dining coupon booklets are sold for additional revenue that is returned to the program. My thanks to Ron for inviting me on board, Dan for breaking me in, Kim for providing valuable VLP history and information about programs, Karen and Ken for the helpful interviews and last, but not least, Mary, for her patience and guidance allowing to "help" with the front desk. Angela Fabbrini, University of Pittsburgh Student- Service Project Paper, November 26, 2007

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

VVLP exceled in all areas of my need, having provided services that I had been unable to find through other social services agency and everything was done in a very professional, courteous and respectful way as to allow me to keep my self respect and dignty. Please allow me to explain. I entered the VVLP after being refered to VVLP by my former Landlord. By that time I had been to every social service agency around town with no help given to me. But for the Salvation Army there I did recieve help. My troubles began some 5 yrs ago about 2003. I was employed as a security guard earning about $ 8.00/hr. when I first became ill AND started having physical problems too. The illness not knowing then the nature of this illness caused me the loss of days at work and shorten my paycheck. I was off work just one whole week and from my paycheck a week of pay. being single the only wage earner in the house that loss of 1 week's pay hurt me I did not have enough my money to pay my rent on the 1st of the month so I borrowed money from my gas bill to make up the difference. I figured that I'd be able to catch up on the gas bill by mid-month. Then I had to pay for cash for a prescription that the Doctor had ordered for me. Doing that I borrowed my from the electric bill which I also figured I make up the difference of that by the first paycheck of the next month. Well it was not to be so. Everything began to snowball downhill. I ended up in the hospital a number of times I had to have surgery four times, 1surgery is an emergency surgery. I spend more time at the doctor's office or at the hospital for testing than I am at work. Of course no work no paycheck. My employer terminated me after agreeing to allow me medical leave but I was terminated. Every monthly debt and bills I owed I fell behind paying including child support payments("WOW")!!! Domestic Relations, just saying that enough said. Okay, that is when I began searching for help earnestly, before then I went to one all the social service agency known you name them I was there first thing in the morning. You must be there early before 8:00am to be seen. but before being seen there is the matter of filling out pre-visit forms that must be filled out then mailed back to whichever office/agency before you can be seen by a Social Worker and that takes a phone call that I should have caaled before coming in to the office. They mail forms out to you, You fill out sign date all forms mail them back in, then someone will call to schedule an appointment, remember to fill in "all" information bring "all" proofs of this, proofs of that, be there by 8am. or 1/2hr prior to your first visit which is only an evalution for services appointment. "ALL" your buisness must be disclosed for why you're there seeking help and then you're asked: "WELL HOW DID YOU LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU AND GET SO FAR OUT OF HAND BEFORE SEEKING HELP AND/OR ARE DRUGS/ALCOHOL INVOLVED WHAT IS THE REASON FOR YOUR UNMANAGEABILITY SIR"? Are you living above your means? Like I could live such a lavish lifestyle from an income of $8.00/hr. Having been stripped of all my sense of dignity, pride, self-respect and all self-worth. You are made to feel like you are "less than" by the person behind the desk doing the interviewing. And with all that, keep in mind that this is just an evalution for services appointment. There is no real sure thing of recieving help and have you tried cutting back on this or that, do you owe property that you rent/stocks/bonds or a car that can be sold off for funds/do you have family or friends that can help? On and on they go. Then that is when you learn that it will be a few days-30,45,60 days depending on the agency before you can recieve help. as if perhaps you'll get frustrated enough give up or just walk out. You get the picture. But even though you need the help today right now, it can't be done. did I tell you yet that I did not qualify for any assistance because I earned too much money for that month or year. In fact by too much I'm speaking of just a few hundred dollars-$200 to $500 too much again depending on the agency. I'm a VET a United States Army Viet-Nam Vet and each and every agency refused me help or thier help was too little too late and incomplete. Now by this time I'm so far behind I'm feeling so depressed that the thoughts of killing myself aren't just thoughts any more. I'm now planing my death, now see if you can get the money Domestic Relations. with the gas, electric, turned off and facing eviction I can't shower or proform daily body needs, not eating right. I walk out on to one of the many bridges in this city. I do not know how or who but I end up in the phyc-unit at the hospital. This is when I am introduced to the VVLP. Again I can't remember when who how but my former Landlord and the VVLP entered my life. but all due to the mistrust of other agency I'd dealt with in the past and bad depression I suffered, my process was abit longer than normal. I can honestly say that the VVLP staff (THANK GOD) for the staff off VVLP. These folks did everything and anything imaginable possible to help me they went above and beyond the call of duty to help me. first they had to break down the walls of mistrust confusion and depression. then they had to spoon feed me their services I didn't trust them why would anyone want to help me. Then they practically hand carried me everywhere even to Doctor appointments. from the door I was treated with respect told that I am somebody, shown real care and real concern. third I was given help that turned out to be more than I could ever hope for or pray for, truth is I didn't even know what I needed or wanted even that they help me withby suggesting I sit down and write a wish list of what I would want if I were given the help to get what I want. From the door when you are treated with this type of care its overwelming of a sort. At "ALL" the other agency I had been treated with abit of disdain/contempt believe me I know how that feels not so with the VVLP staff. MAN! WHAT A DIFFERENCE THE "REAL PEOPLE" MADE IN MY LIFE! Forgive me if this is too long or you feel it is too emotional. Hey it is what it is. my story. They have given me the services of just about all my needs given me one of my wants, there is still a few things I hope will be resolved but I am confident that even these issues will be cleared up too. I don't know who or how the VVLP is given its funds to stay in buisness, but its my suggestion that the funding be increased an 100 fold no make that 300-400% so that the staff can provide an even greater depth of services. What would be thier wish list of services they want to be able to provide but can't due to funding restrains. If you are private corprate or government contributares. Increase the funding so that the VVLP can be expanded to help an ever increasing VETS that are in need returning home and to those VETS my age from VIet-Nam that yet do not know of VVLP.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had known of the VLP through a colleague and friend that volunteers his time with the organization. In my role as the commander of the 303rd PSYOP Company, having recently returned from deployment to Iraq, I have referred several of my soldiers to the VLP for assistance with financial needs, employment, and reintegration. However, when Frank (my colleague and friend) wrote me an email asking me to assist him in putting together a recommendation for an award honoring the 303rd, to be presented at an awards ceremony, I was a bit skeptical. I expected a well appreciated but not so spectacular program. What my fellow honorees and I found was an exceptional program full of patriotism, honor, emotion, and gratitude. The event brought together civilians, businesses, servicemen and women, and veterans from several wars to express appreciation for individuals and groups that assist veterans and veteran organizations in many ways. The staff was great, and the location extraordinary. It was an inspiring evening—a true gala if there ever was one. What I thought was especially great was the social time after the event. It was a great opportunity to meet all those that were introduced and honored during the event and meet those that work with the VLP. Since the event, I have had a few additional opportunities to refer soldiers and veterans to the VLP. I am very appreciative of the services they provide and hope to continue to have opportunities to work with them in the future. Thank you VLP!

16

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When is the last time you sang God Bless America, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, set-aside time for a moment of silence, or said a prayer on behalf of our unparalleled country? The Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania recently presented an extraordinary event that allowed over 600 of us to do this, and much more. This Tribute to Veterans program sanctioned us to see-through our political views, reach into our hearts and feel emotions from extreme sadness to triumph, all on behalf of those who have served, and those who have supported them. Words cannot express the powerful message conveyed by master of ceremonies, Glen Meakem and his team at the podium. Their passion for veterans was contagious, refreshing and not-to-be forgotten. The sincerity and depth of the evening was a beautiful and dignified reminder of sacrifices, yet spirited to perfection. We were all touched in a very profound way, with tear-filled eyes and earnest smiles. The audience consisted of uniformed military, family, and friends. Special guests included Gold Star Mothers, General Gus Pagonis, and many deserving honorees. Thank You, VLP for bringing attention and heightened awareness to such a worthy cause. Thank You, VLP for an inspiring event that brought together the military and civilians in an atmosphere of appreciation, respectfulness and patriotism. Thank you, Al Mercer and the staff at VLP for your commitment, exuberance and solemn grace in caring for veterans. I feel honored to have been part of the event, and look forward to sharing this most memorable camaraderie with fellow military and civilian supporters in years to come. I strongly suggest you mark your calendar for next year’s tribute. Fair WInds and Following Seas, M J Costello Sailor, United States Navy

18 KC

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Veterans Leadership Program was great to work with. Nancy was very helpful and told us about some of the programs that VLP offers.