United for Veterans

Supporting Our Local Veterans And Their Families

United Way of Northeastern MN creates local initiative "United for Veterans"

Over the years, veterans and their family members have expressed the critical need for expanded, wrap-around services throughout our rural communities to United Way staff, board and volunteers. Understanding the need, UWNEMN recruited Wilder Research to help determine the most critical issues for UWNEMN to focus on.  Wilder Research spent the better part of 2014 conducting Key Informant Interviews with veterans, their family members and local service providers. There was also an online survey available for those that preferred to participate that way.

Veterans expressed their biggest challenges were related to healthcare services which included long wait times, long distance travel, few qualified providers that understand, and concerns with social stigma and confidentiality. A family member expressed concern regarding their father, “There is such a stigma around mental health and seeking out help…. They are trained to be strong, they are trained to shut off that emotional part of them….,” Additional struggles expressed were issues with financial stability and employment as well as the culture shock when returning to civilian life. One veteran who served during Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) stated, “Emotional bonding levels are challenging. They want to know exactly what happened, what I did, but I get frustrated telling the story over and over again…”
To view the synopsis of the veterans study please CLICK HERE

To view the full report please CLICK HERE.

UWNEMN is focusing on the most critical issues at hand with the support of a committee "United for Veterans" that is comprised of local veterans from the Iron Range whose mission is: "To create an environment of honor and respect for all fellow comrades in Northeastern Minnesota, while developing opportunities, supporting those in need and empowering veterans."
Programming to date includes:
1. United for Veterans assisted in updating and and paid for the printing of 6,000 Military Connections Guides which provide information on services and programs available to Northeastern MN veterans and their families. To view the Military Connections Directory please CLICK HERE. **An update and re-print of the guide is planned to take place in 2018.
2. Development of a veterans veterans resource center at Hibbing Community College which created a space on campus for veterans to study and convene and access the veteran service officer who provides assistance with the G.I. Bill and other military benefits. 
3. A partnership with Speare Psychological services is providing any veteran or servicemember experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD, military sexual trauma or other mental health issues related to the military experience that reside in the UWNEMN service territory to access up to 12 free and confidential therapy sessions at no cost. This is a private program with no other affiliations. Appointments can be made by calling Speare Psychological Services at 218-741-3740.
4.  A crisis fund which allows veterans and servicemembers experiencing a hardship to apply for financial assistance to offset the cost of a basic living expense. Applications for the crisis fund can be obtained through UWNEMN, or by visiting a local County Veteran Service office in Ely, Hibbing or Virginia.
5. Host annual local retreats for veterans and their families.
        **2018 retreat schedule: 
              1st Annual Women Veterans Retreat, May 4th-6th at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Registration opens March 1st
              3rd Annual Veteran/Family Retreat, September 7th-9th at Veterans on the Lake in Ely. Registration opens May 1st. 
6. Grant disbursements to local veteran service organizations. Most recent was a $10,000 grant to Veterans on the Lake Resort in Ely, a barrier free resort that serves veterans and their families throughout the Midwest. This grant will be used to provide scholarships to veterans that may not otherwise be able to afford their stay at the resort and Gold Star Military families
7. A partnership with Delta Air Lines and it's employees allowed United for Veterans to create crisis backpacks that include basic essentials for veterans that are found/identified as homeless in our region.
8. Annual holiday meal kits are disbursed to veterans that have been supported by the Crisis Fund or referred by a local County Veteran Service office. 
**Newest Project: United for Veterans is partnering with the MN Assistance Council for Veterans to create a shelter/transitional housing unit for the Iron Range area that would be used for veterans facing homelessness or a transitional crisis. UWNEMN is currently seeking a home to purchase in the Hibbing or Virginia area as these communities have the greatest number of wrap around services for veterans available. Our goal is to begin renovations by Spring of 2018.
Current and upcoming programming for veterans and their families is funded through UWNEMN’s event Rampage at the Ridge, an extreme 5K obstacle and mud run held at Giants Ridge. Over the past four years, $168,000 has been raised through the event.  The 2018 Rampage at the Ridge will be held on Saturday, August 18th. Registration opens with a "sweet" deal on February 14, 2018. For more information or to register for the event visit www.rampagerun.org. Miscellaneous donations throughout the annual campaign also help to offset the cost for programming. 
UWNEMN’s vision is that all veterans in Northeastern Minnesota will have access not only to health care, financial stability and employment but to high quality and culturally competent support. This access and support will allow veterans, their families, and our communities to flourish, grow and thrive.

For more information regarding United for Veterans or Rampage at the Ridge please contact Erin at 218-254-3329 or erin@unitedwaynemn.org