New program to offer money help, emergency financial assistance to vets

Norwich — Veterans who report mismanaging their money, such as bouncing a check, are four times more likely to become homeless in the next year than vets who don't, research shows. And financial stress is a leading cause of military suicides, according to Department of Defense data.

In Norwich, a new program at Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut will offer free financial management training and emergency financial assistance to veterans.

The program, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, will serve 600 vets. That's in addition to the 600 vets Easterseals serves annually through its other veteran programming, said Allen Gouse, the agency's CEO and president.

Easterseals' veterans and family programs started with one basic service, career development, Gouse said, and quickly grew.

The organization was the only one in the state of Connecticut to be awarded a grant through Dominion's program.

"More important than providing people with resources is helping them manage the resources that they have," he said of the new program.

The program will kick off after Thanksgiving. Vets and their immediate family members will be able to receive help managing their personal finances. Easterseals also will provide emergency financial assistance to vets, if, for example, the car that they drive to work breaks down and they can't afford to pay for the repairs.

Meanwhile, Easterseals is about halfway to its fundraising goal of $1.8 million to build an 18,000-square-foot veterans center in back of its existing Norwich facility. Stanley Black & Decker committed $1 million toward the project. Beth Pritchard, executive vice president, chief marketing and philanthropy officer for Easterseals, said the organization is looking for grant opportunities to fund the remainder of the project.

The center, when up and running, will provide a space for veterans to access services, and interact and relax with their peers. Officials have said it will be the first of its kind in the state.

j.bergman@theday.com

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