Saturday, November 10, 2012

East Valley Veterans Find Support at the EVVEC

Marine Corps Veteran Lance Fredericks
Returning to a civilian life can be difficult for some veterans who struggle adjusting to life outside the military.

For Lance Fredericks, a veteran of the Marine Corps, going back home to be a stonemason was a more difficult step than anticipated.

“It was hard,” Fredericks said.

He eventually ended up in prison, where someone gave him a pamphlet about help veterans can receive.

When he was released he went to a homeless center for veterans and was assigned a case worker.

“She pointed me in this direction,” Fredericks explained.

The direction he headed was toward the East Valley Veteran’s Education Center in Tempe, a one-stop shop for veterans and their families.

“It made me realize that someone actually cares about vets,” Fredericks said.

The EVVEC offers veterans the opportunity to reintegrate with society by helping veterans receive benefits, start on education and set a path for their future.

Darcy Breault, the office coordinator at the EVVEC, loves her job because of her passion for helping others.

“It’s really a privilege to sit down with someone and help them navigate through these things,” she said.

The EVVEC has a computer lab open for use, hosts workshops for resumes, educational and workforce development, and can make referrals to community resources such as housing, medical care, and job listings.

“We’re here to listen and support, and be patient,” Breault explained.

For David Scoggins, being able to come in, get help applying for benefits and explore his options was exactly what he needed.

“The resources here are amazing,” said the Navy veteran.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1995, he was lost for what he could do with his life. Scoggins felt like he was lost in the dark, until he walked into the education center.

“It was like sunlight when you walk in,” Scoggins described.

Scoggins has a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently pursuing entrance to law school.

For Fredericks, the center gave him the opportunity to start getting an education and gave him something to focus on.

“School is my social life…it keeps me focused,” he said.

For him, the love and support of his parents, along with the help and resources of the education center, gave him the boost he needed to get started on his life.

“It if wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t have anything,” he said.

His goal is to start his own business designing customized head stones, which combines his skills as a mason and his college education.

Fredericks said it all came down to the moment when he decided to let someone help him out.

“It’s a pride thing,” he said.

While he has a full day of classes and studying at both Arizona State University and Phoenix College, he still carries pamphlets and hands them out to any homeless veterans he comes across.

“To any vets out there, put your pride aside. There’s help out there,” he stated.

His dedication to his studies fills his day starting with class at 7:30 in the morning until he returns home at 11:00 at night.

“It’s wearing me out, but I am determined to finish it,” he said.

The East Valley Veterans Education Center is a unique facility created to provide veterans and their families with educational and vocational resources, all in one location. The 5,000 square foot facility opened in 2011 in collaboration with five colleges of the Maricopa County Community College District; Rio Salado (host institution), Chandler-Gilbert, GateWay, Mesa, and Scottsdale. Government and community partners.