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Review for Work Vessels For Vets Inc, Mystic, CT, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

This nonprofit gave me assistance when no one else was able.

In 2006 I was seriously wounded when deployed to Iraq during my 10th year as a Military Police officer. My right leg was severed above the knee and I was left with 3rd degree burns, PTSD, and a traumatic brain injury that manifested as a Parkinson’s-like movement disorder. Devastatingly, I couldn’t use my hands to feed myself or write. This caused me to spiral into depression, the likes of which I had never known. I felt less than human; not even good enough to go to the grocery store. The meanings to the words uselessness, self-hatred and even suicide were now in my vernacular.

Then my therapist suggested I try a hobby that used my fine motor skills, so I decided to try jewelry. In the beginning, things were VERY slow, repetitive and frustrating. Over time, I realized my hands were actually getting better, and one day, I became aware that my hands were almost "Normal”. This spurred me on, and I continued to learn everything I could about the technical craft of making fine jewelry, and eventually I found my niche: because I know what it’s like to not feel pretty, my mission is to help women know how beautiful they are via use of my jewelry. I started a business and began fulfilling my destiny in October of 2010.

I soon found insurmountable obstacles, the first of which was financial. My business was mainly funded by my disability income, which also was used to pay my mortgage, my car and other bills. This stretched me very thin, and some months I wasn’t able to pay everything. Especially when my business progressed to the point where I needed expensive tools, like a PUK welder. I first became aware of this technology in late 2013, when I witnessed a friend tell her customer she would fix a gemstone-laden broken ring as she was waking back to her bench, and she came out to the front 5 minutes later with a ring that looked like new. In my world of jewelry, I would have to first remove the gemstones, then make the repair, then re-set the stones - hoping I wouldn’t damage the ring in the process. When questioned, my friend informed me this was due to a process that used electricity instead of heat to join the metal. Further research revealed this piece of equipment was around $4000, much too expensive for my rigid budget. Throughout 2014, I tried on multiple occasions to contact service organizations that I thought would help. I repeatedly heard phrases like ”…that’s not within the scope of our mission..” or, ”...much too expensive for our budget…” or even, ”…how do you expect us to help other veterans if we gave you such a sizable portion?”.

Then one day I got a email from Google Alerts I had previously set up for the words "veteran's grant”, and I read about Work Vessels For Vets getting a $70,000 grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation. I immediately contacted them. Fast-forward an edited business plan and a year later, and my very heavy welder was sitting in my lap. Moved to tears, I called Cathy Cook, the Executive Director of Work Vessels For Vets and explained to her how much this gift means to me. I realized 6 months later, that my productivity improved roughly 30% and my turnover of broken gemstones decreased by around 70% year-over-year. When I say this no-profit is doing good things to help veteran’s entrepreneurial efforts, I mean it. No other organization would even consider giving me a $4000 grant, but Work Vessels For Vets was able to because 95% of all donations go directly to veteran services (which I have learned over time is extraordinary).

Tara Hutchinson

Read more of my story and see my work at www.tarahutchjewelry.com

Role:  General Member of the Public