With a continued focus on the mission of improving the lives of those who proudly served in the military to help protect our nation, the volunteers who coordinate the activities of WNY Heroes, Inc. regularly make a difference for military veterans throughout Western New York.
The not-for-profit organization assists veterans, members of the armed services, and the spouses and children of deceased veterans by providing financial assistance and easy access to essential services and resources to help support their day-to-day living and sustain the dignity they earned and rightfully deserve.
Founded in 2007, WNY Heroes provides post-combat care to local residents who are seeking stability in their personal and professional lives by meeting short-term, long-term and strategic goals of veterans and their family members. The organization’s efforts are overseen by an advisory board comprising various business leaders, community stakeholders, and representatives of numerous civic and philanthropic foundations.
Direct monetary assistance to help pay current and past-due bills to "bridge the gap" and relieve the anxiety and stress of fiscal concerns of veterans is one of the tasks WNY Heroes regularly performs. On average, a disabled veteran waits approximately six months to receive their disability benefits and associated services, a time period often riddled with unnecessary financial hardships for the veteran and his or her family members.
WNY Heroes also provides veterans and their families with access to personal health and housing needs, family care services, and various other essentials that can include delivering groceries, providing gifts for holidays and birthdays, and purchasing new school supplies for school-aged children of veterans.
The long-range vision of supporting Western New York’s veterans includes the establishment of a centralized resource that can meet the needs of veterans and their families and provide answers to all of their questions by unique collaboration and cooperation with partnering community organizations throughout the region. Direct support and helping to identify bridge entities that can offer regular physical and mental health check-ups and appointments, legal assistance, and workforce development and career guidance are all part of the strategic structure of the not-for-profit.
WNY Heroes also offers grant programs to veterans and their families who are often referred by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Homeless Center, local VFW posts, and area veterans service offices. Checks can be written to mortgage companies, landlords, and utility companies in the form of grants that can be renewed once every three years to assist with paying for housing, utilities, food, and holiday/special occasion meals.
Other programs include:
- Pawsitive for Heroes to help match eligible veterans who have a documented, combat-related disability (post-traumatic stress, anxiety, hyper-vigilance) with a therapeutic dog to accompany the veteran at home and work
- Operation Backpack to provide children of veterans or those still serving in the military with backpacks full of essential school supplies
- Operation Automobile to arrange for donated or currently-owned vehicles to be repaired, refurbished, and fully serviced and presented to a qualifying veteran at no charge
Due to the pandemic, a number of events that provide veterans with networking opportunities, counseling sessions, and other social events have been postponed until further notice. WNY Heroes asks anyone considering making a charitable donation or memorial contribution to any non-profit organization to "stay local" and donate to their organization to help assist veterans who live in the Western New York region. National organizations that assist military veterans use contributions to pay for administrative costs, and a portion of the donation is often spent outside of the area, whereas WNY Heroes allows any donor to specifically earmark how their contribution is to be spent and reassures all donors that 100 percent of the money they provide will be used to directly assist local veterans, current service members, and the family members of those who served but have since passed away.
To learn more about WNY Heroes, including how you can become a volunteer or make a donation to the not-for-profit organization, visit www.wnyheroes.org or call (716) 630-5020.
Daniel Meyer is a freelance writer and contributor to Forever Young and Buffalo Spree.