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A place that AV Veterans can call "Home"

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Palmdale, CA, August 29, 2018 | Chris Jusuf (202-225-1956) | comments
Antelope Valley Press
August 29, 2018

A place AV Veterans can call "Home"
By Dennis Anderson

A significant emotional component of the "American Dream" is a place to call home.

It has been that way for generations, since so much of America ultimately achieved a dream of having a home of their own.

The non-profit military support group, Vets4Veterans, finally has a home to call their own, and they want to share it, with a couple of veterans in need, or a veteran family in need - whichever meet the organization's modest but fair requirements.

"We call it a hand-up, not a hand-out," said Carol Rice, a member of the group's board.

The home that they house-warmed at a community welcome Monday involved key lawmakers, veterans, and the citizen-patriots who love and support those who served in our nation's armed forces, whatever the era, conflict or war.

Employee associations at The Boeing Co. and Northrop-Grumman made major contributions, and it all became the culmination of six years worth of work.

It's a nicely refurbished house, the kind of home most of us with jobs and good circumstances would call a "starter home" a mile or so east of Sierra Highway.

"This is Operation Restart," said Tom Hilzendeger, President of Vets4Veterans. "It's meant to be just that, a fresh start."

On Monday afternoon, in the bright sunshine, there were some banners and bunting, some shovels, and a bit of furniture, and folding chairs set out for people who had put their good faith and kind contributions into the effort.

Vets4Veterans has been in operation in the Antelope Valley for nearly 10 years. They do what they do by organizing some fairly simple fundraisers, like car shows, and golf tournaments, 5 and 10K runs, a half-marathon and a "color run," and an annual dinner. Nobody takes a dime for themselves, Hilzendeger said, proudly. The money is used to fund scholarships for veterans transitioning out of the military who attend Antelope Valley College, and also small emergency assistance grants and temporary shelter for veterans, or their families, in distress.

The Operation Restart House has been the local group's share of the American Dream, and it is the Vets4Veterans community-based labor of love. The group raised funds for more than five years, putting together the more than $180,000 to turn a dream into a reality.

The group will take applications for residence at the Restart house for either one veterans' family - or for two veterans who would share the house.

"They can be there up to six months, and what we will be looking for is if they find employment and start to put some money aside for their own place," Hilzendeger said. "This isn't a permanent home. It's just what we say, a way to get a fresh start."

If the veteran secures employment and needs an extension, that will be reviewed at six months, Hilzendeger said.

"It is to help them be able to move on and transition out of service," said Gerry Rice, a combat veteran of Vietnam who provides clinical therapy for veterans with issues related to their service.

Citizen-patriots like Megan Hilzendeger, and Carol Rice, and Jackie Kyman and Debbie Gilmore and many others with heart make sure that the lights and power are on. The outfit would not function without them.

Monday's ceremony to get the shovels turned, and a quick tour of the house happened in a hurry, Campbell said, when they heard that Rep. Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, would show up for the event. Knight represents the 25th District, serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and served an Army hitch in Cold War Europe.

Others who showed up and helped this stage of the dream come true included state Sen. Scott Wilk, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, and Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford along with representatives from Palmdale and Lancaster, and a representative for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Antelope Valley.

"This is not about cities," Ledford said. "Veterans transcend city boundaries."

Knight said, "The Antelope Valley always answers the call to help its veterans and their donations over the years made it possible for the dream to come true. Vets 4 Veterans is the gold standard for service."

The congressman added, "This has been a long time coming and many hours of hard work have gone into the purchase of their home. Tom Hilzendeger the Founder and President of Vets 4 Veterans, was relentless as a leader to accomplish the mission."

Dennis Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who served for 16 years as Editor of the Antelope Valley Press before shifting career to High Desert Medical Group to work in the community with veterans and military families.
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