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Okaloosa County receives money for outreach program for veterans
One-point-five million dollars is on its way to the Panhandle, to improve the quality of life for veterans. Our area was one of only five in the country chosen for a new kind of outreach program. It will extend from Escambia county to Holmes county.
Laura Hussey "Support for veterans is on display at the CareerSource Center in Fort Walton Beach. They are administering the grant that originated at the Wounded Warrior Project"
Andrea Russell spent two years in the Army, deploying to Kuwait and running missions in Iraq. Her transition to the civilian world was fairly smooth, but it's not that way for everyone.
Andrea Russell/veteran "Our veterans are coming back, and you hear in the news how they're homeless or they're struggling this way or that way, and there really doesn't seem to be any help for them"
Connecting veterans with the help they need is what the new Panhandle Warrior Connection will do.
Earnestine Carswell/Panhandle Warrior Connection "There are so many reasons our warriors are in the situations they are in, and sometimes they're not necessarily aware there are an extensive amount of services that are extended to them and their families"
Program manager Earnestine Carswell says there are more than a hundred types of services available to vets and their families....help with job-seeking, education, health and mental health, even crisis management.
Russell says sometimes they just need help adjusting to the loss of structure they had in the military.
Andrea "I couldn't find a job right away that had that 6:30-9 getting up routine, everything the same day to day. And so I kind of got lazy"
The Panhandle Warrior Connection will not duplicate existing services. They'll serve as a clearinghouse where one contact can get vets the help they need.
Earnestine "We are open and prepared to go from the board rooms to the bridges to find our warriors"
Laura Hussey "Right now the Panhandle Warrior Connection is hiring a team of veterans' advocates to reach out to vets in the community. They hope to have them in place by the first week in July."