The history of Veterans Community Response
Veterans Community Response came to be through a process that has become part of our creed, see a need, meet a need. In early January 2005, we were founded in response to the tsunami that had devastated Sri Lanka. We operated under the name Community Focused Disaster Response (CFDR). CFDR volunteers worked in the village of Komari, Sri Lanka until September 2008, completing over 75 different projects, some of which continued through 2011 under local leadership. CFDR’s project list was as diverse as the needs of the community. Our projects included rubble clean up, well cleaning, rebuilding homes, school buildings and businesses, education, agriculture, strengthening the local economy, community enrichment, environmental cleanup, beach restoration and tsunami abatement, etc.
In 2007 we began shifting our focus to meet the arising readjustment needs of the combat veterans returning from our Nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2009, our work with combat veterans evolved into hosting a combat stress reduction retreat we called “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.” Due to the overwhelming feedback we received from participants and volunteers of this retreat, we made this an annual event and began operating under the name Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon systematically added retreats to meet the needs of other communities and other eras of combat veterans, as well as, programs to keep veterans engaged throughout the year.
In 2015, we changed our name to Veterans Community Response (VCR) and changed our bylaws to reflect our new mission. We now offer six annual multi-day retreats for combat veterans, five one-day retreats, an ongoing veteran yoga program, we are partners on a veteran garden in Spokane, WA, support numerous veterans through a veteran emergency fund, and we have a veteran’s service program we call our Community Responder Program.
Our Community Responder Program provides veterans with a meaningful way to be of service to their community, it facilitates the development of strong support networks among the veterans participating, it provides our veterans with marketable skills, and delivers needed services to the community. To date, we have conducted targeted immediate aid, rebuild and recovery in several communities affected by the wildfires of 2015, we have provided training on forest management, fuels reduction and fire abatement, and have put team members through rigorous chainsaw training courses that meet best practice standards.
Our Community Response team is actively in partnership with the Washington Department of Natural Resources in fuel reduction contracts. We are also partnering with Rural Resources Community Action in helping needy and disabled rural residents with wildfire prep and other needs. We have a very active partnership with All Hands and Hearts, an international disaster response organization, in which VCR team members are joining AHAH teams in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. VCR has over 30 deployments of team members since February 2018.
Where we’re headed
Since the inception of the Community Responder Program, our vision has included building a team in Sandpoint. We foresee building a similarly equipped and trained team that would include a trail building component. We are in communications with potential community partners including Kaniksu Land Trust and Pend Oreille Peddlers. Our initial objectives are to build and train a team of veterans to contribute to trail building efforts in collaboration with the Kaniksu Land Trust on the Pine Street Woods project and the Pend Oreille Peddlers on their maintenance and expansion of the Lower Basin Trails. We have also initiated conversations with Kaniksu Land Trust to focus efforts on reducing fuels and managing properties in need.
Another initial objective that will greatly benefit to our veterans as well as the Sandpoint Community is utilizing Makerspoint Studio. We foresee weekly or bi-weekly classes that encourage our disabled veterans to develop a craft and potentially turn it in to a cottage industry skill that they can do from their own home. Veterans Community Response is also in discussion with StraightRazor.com, an online straight razor company that promotes the use of cottage industry, with the goal of in developing a program that mentors veterans in developing and marketing crafts.
Further down the road our intentions for both Spokane and Sandpoint operations include initiatives that encourage healthy lifestyles. Primarily, we envision whole health centers in both communities that offer marital arts, yoga, functional fitness, nutrition classes, access to alternative medical providers (acupuncture, functional medicine, massage, meditation, etc.), access to a makers studio, and a healthy place for veterans to gather for support.
We are excited to work with our partner organizations and look forward to creating meaningful programs that add value to veteran’s lives and our communities.