By Ed Kane
Now in its third year of operation, Lions Project New Hope NW has been providing cost-free weekend retreats for combat veterans and their families. The retreats offer workshops for the veterans and their spoouses seeking methods and tools for dealing with issues related to combat deployments. Post traumatic stress disorders are triggers in too many individual and family conflicts, and too often is a contributing factor in both divorces and veteran suicides.
The New Hope program, conducts board meetings in Lakewood monthly, was conceived as an opportunity for veterans to openly discuss their issues with spouses, peers and workshop leaders in a relaxing environment while Lions Clubs volunteers from around the Puget Sound region care for their children. Since costs for this type of program are generally beyond the budgets for active-duty veterans as well as those no longer on active duty, Lions Clubs provide everything without charge. Provisions include motel-style accomodations at Cascades Camp at the edge of Elbow Lake in North Thurston County, all meals, child care and professional counseling by a licensedmental health counselor 24/7 during the Friday afternoon to Sunday noon period of the retreats. There is also an afternoon of recreational challenges and family bonding time.
The total cost of the retreats is borne by Lions Clubs with funds raised through their many community activities. Those costs however have been rising. Fortunately, organizations have been stepping up to lighten the burden. Each retreat will cost approximately $6,500 in the coming year, with four or five retreats being planned for 2014.
Comcast, whose corporate policy is veteran-friendly, learned of the program and offered to support it through a cash grant large enoough to finance a complete retreat. Their pro-veteran approach to taking care of business includes an active participation in the Hire America’s Heroes national campaign. Comcast has a veteran employee share of 12%, many of whom brought their military training and experience with them, to the company’s benefit. Comcast also has committed $250,000 worth of air time to the hiring campaign. Many of the veterans attending the retreats have already left the military or are planning to in the near future and hoping to transition smoothly back into their communities.
All veterans from all services who have served in any of America’s armed conflicts, including Canadian veterans, since Washington State Lions are part of a district that includes British Columbia, are invited to apply online (www.lionsprojectnewhopenw.org