On a beautiful December afternoon on December 2, six members of Montreat College’s Service and Leadership Team and Outdoor Education department spent their time volunteering at the college’s Team and Leadership Center (TLC) by participating in various team building initiatives with a handful of local veterans. The activities were facilitated by John Rogers, the director of the TLC.

When asked to speak on his favorite part about this event, Rogers said, “What sticks out most is what they (the veterans) get out of the day. Knowing had they not done this, they may not have seen or interacted with anybody today.” He continued, “Building relationships with them and watching them build relationships with those that they come with–being able to plug-in to a community–is what sticks out most to me.”

Montreat student Grant Geurink added, “I love being able to work with the people, and having the chance to climb at the same time.”

Two veterans were able to enjoy the challenges of the TLC: the climbing wall, the “Pamper Pull,” and “Dangling Duo.” These challenges are part of an adventure-based model designed for enjoyment as well as group and individual development. John Green, a U.S. Army veteran, served from 1975-1977. Green spent his time serving as a combat engineer, building bridges in Germany. The other veteran, Jacob Hicks, served in the Navy as part of the Naval Construction Force known as the Seabees. Hicks entered the Navy in 2006; he found this to be his best option amidst the struggling economy. He spoke highly and graciously of his time in service. These men are both members of a program known as “HUD-VASH.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, through a cooperative partnership, provides long-term case management, supportive services, and permanent housing support. Eligible homeless veterans receive VA-provided case management and services that support stability and recovery from physical and mental health concerns, substance use, and functional issues contributing to or resulting from of homelessness. The program strives to provide permanent housing for veterans in the community. (www.va.gov)

Green and Hicks came to the college’s TLC with their case worker from the Veterans Affairs Hospital, Hillary Bolter, and their recreational therapist, Lori Long, of Asheville Parks and Recreation. The V.A. works closely with veterans like Green and Hicks. They come alongside them, assisting with their basic needs and ensuring they get what they need from the V.A. The V.A. has five case managers, all licensed clinical social workers, serving 145 veterans. The V.A. works with Asheville Parks and Recreation every Friday to provide individuals of the program with the opportunity to recreate. Long coordinates different activities for the veterans every Friday. Some activities they have enjoyed so far this year include movies, canoeing, and spending time at the Team and Leadership Center. Long enjoys, “Getting to know the veterans, the relationships that are formed, and watching them have fun and new experiences.”

If you are interested in more service opportunities like this one, contact Lyndsey Wall, director of service at Montreat College, at lwall@montreat.edu.