LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On Veterans Day, in addition to honoring our current and former veterans, we should also think about and give thanks to the great organizations who help them.

In the Traverse City region, there is a non-profit organization called Veterans in Crisis that has a volunteer group of 10 board members with boots on the ground in order to offer a rapid response to local veterans in crisis. Those board members even include a judge and five of the members are veterans.

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Whether the crisis is fixing a furnace, paying for a car repair, helping with a medical bill, helping find a dentist or legal services, paying for rent or tuition, home construction, groceries, utility assistance, clothing, women’s resources, transportation services, or other unexpected needs that are not being met, Veterans in Crisis (VIC) is there to offer a “hand-up.”

The average grant request is about $3,000 to $4,000 and the help that is needed can be requested directly from the veteran, by a friend or family member or even a caregiver. VIC also get referrals from the county VA office and have already received four referrals from them for the month of November.

The process to evaluate a request includes getting information from the veteran, often through the website, which has five simple questions for them to answer. VIC learns about the applicant and calls them immediately to verify that they are a veteran through DD214 (discharge papers) that signify they have been honorably discharged. One of four members on the board who are responsible for the vetting will look at the request and take the information to the board. It takes six members to approve the request. The responses from the board members come back within a few hours.

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David Pistor, chairman of VIC, says that often the VA takes too long to give assistance or doesn’t assist in a certain area like helping with heating costs. That’s where VIC can step in and help the disabled or unemployed veteran or the 88-year-old vet who has no where else to turn to. VIC helps all veterans whether they were in combat or not and no matter what time period they served.

Pistor described a situation VIC helped with this year where their partnerships were able to make a big difference. They assisted a couple near Thompsonville who were both Navy vets. The husband passed away in March while VIC was trying to get them a new roof. The couple had bad roof leaks and the husband had cancer and couldn’t work. It was a tough situation and VIC partnered with Story Roofing and a company called Owens Corning that supplies shingles. Through their partners, VIC was able to replace the whole roof at no charge and then they purchased a new furnace for the widow which was badly needed.

VIC is comprised of a veteran-led group of volunteers, business owners and advocates who serve those who honorably served our country. In addition to offering financial assistance, they also connect veterans with local businesses to match them up with job opportunities.

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Their specialty is that they are an organization that is able to respond quickly to veterans who need help. Since 2016, they have aimed to have a direct, visible impact on those who need immediate support by providing a hand-up to veterans throughout 21 Northern Michigan and Eastern U.P. counties. Most needs are able to be fulfilled with a  24-hour turnaround time although some larger needs may take a day or so longer.

Pistor said, “I’m glad to help out where we can and as quickly as we can. We pride ourselves on being a 24-hour turnaround if funds are available.” He says they are rapid responders and “when somebody comes to us, they need help and they need it now.”

VIC receives funding from various sources throughout Northern Michigan including hosting their events. Their two primary fundraisers every year are Golfing for Vets and the Crosstown Hoops Classic.

In addition to the fundraisers, they accept donations of all sizes from individuals and organizations. Media sponsors provide funding as well to help generate awareness. VIC also accepts in-kind services for home repairs, car repairs and other things.

98% of the money donated to VIC goes directly towards service providers or is used to buy needed items like groceries, gas cards or firewood.

Pistor has been with the organization since its inception six years ago and says he’s very proud to be a part of it.

He says that they are seeing a bigger need this year because of the current economic conditions. He said it will even get more difficult as winter comes because of the high cost of heating. He said, “It’s taxing everyone and a lot of these folks are on a fixed income whether it’s Social Security or disability income through the VA.”

He says that in November, they have probably helped 2.5 times the number that they helped last year.

When asked what Veterans Day means to him, Pistor said, “In my position and my involvement, every day is Veterans Day… it’s like Veterans Day on steroids. I try to contact every veteran I’ve ever known in my life and thank them. And it’s amazing the response I get back…I get so many thank you’s back. Just to hear a thank you from a vet. We have so much to be thankful for.”

VIC was founded in 2016 by David Mikowski, a former Combat Marine who served in Vietnam for thirteen months in 1967-68. He got together a group of Northern Michigan retired and still-active business executives, lawyers and advocates of veterans who believed in the mission of the organization.

Michigan News Source says thank you to all of the veterans who have served our great country and to those who help them.