Jul 01 2014

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rbakerj

We are expanding our mission…

Posted at 5:05 pm under News

With the war winding down in Afghanistan I wondered how our org could remain relevant and continue to serve. I decided that we would begin supporting the military PTS community. As a starter I put together a list of about a dozen art supplies that we could dedicate ourselves to sending into the various VA clinics around the country. I imagined this to be a “catalog without pricing.” VA therapists would pick from this list and tell what they needed. We would send a note to our suppliers and ask them to send directly to the requesting org and we would pay them. Tony Izzo of Silver Lead in Lansing, MI, our sketchbook supplier, was happy to sign on. He told me that Silver Lead would even do the camera-ready art for any traditional catalog we came up with.

I had a meeting with some staff at the John Dingell VA Hospital in Detroit in February to discuss this concept and they were appreciative. During the meeting one of them suggested that our org look at supplying the VA’s inpatient community with craft supplies. I replied that I thought another nonprofit was already doing this. She replied, “not anymore.” Seems that the previous organization, Help Hospitalized Veterans, had been dismissed and had not sent materials directly to the VA hospitals for a year and a half.

These supplies are used by the many thousands of inpatient veterans: art supplies, model kits, leather crafts, etc. Often a doctor will actually prescribe a craft for a veteran patient to do as part of their therapy. The VA had been getting these supplies, some 852,000 craft and model kits in 2011,

I contacted the VA Voluntary Services in Washington, DC, and suggested that The Wounded Artist Project would give it a try. I told them that we would send supplies via our suppliers. In the process of determining the needs of these 150 medical centers I asked them to send a survey to each of them. They sent this survey with about two dozen items out on March 19 with a deadline to return their answers by Friday, March 21. I got the responses on Wednesday, March 26. Normally, a good return rate for a questionnaire or survey is about 2-3%, which would have meant about five to seven would have replied, maybe less with the quick turnaround.

I was stunned when I read that 95 medical centers had replied. The email from my contact at the VA also included this note,

The program managers were all very excited for this opportunity as they all recognize this as a great need and though what I have attached is what they estimate they could use, they are all grateful for anything the organization can supply and the Veterans are eager to see this service return.”

The center in Tucson noted that they have to budget $120,000 a year to supply kits to their vets, the center in Tampa said they received about $75,000 worth of supplies from HHV. These numbers are probably typical of the needs of the medical centers.

To gear up to cover this need, I modified our plan to supply. We will still have VA counselors and therapists contact us with requests for supplies from a set list of art and craft supplies and then have our suppliers ship them from their own warehouses so we will not have to receive them, repackage and then reship them (adding time and money to the system). But I am looking at a small warehouse to ship those products that some manufacturers will not be able to send for us. We plan to hire several people to work in and run it. I am hoping that decorated, combat-wounded, unemployed veterans will apply. If they have had some trouble with law, we can talk about that too. Not surprising, the Michigan Chapter of Disabled American Veterans, a retired Marine Master Sergeant/counselor at the Michigan Employment Security Commission, and a Friend of the Veterans Court in Redford, MI have all mentioned they can help us with this.

I personally will be contributing to our fundraising efforts in every way I possibly can too. I am currently donating proceeds from my first e-book, Hogan Comes Home (http://amzn.to/1iRmRtE). This is the story about the return of Staff Sergeant John Hogan, an MIA USAAF radioman-gunner on a B-17. He was lost on the September 13, 1944 mission to Merseberg (or Mercilessberg, as nicknamed by the crews that went there), Germany. One of his dog tags was discovered by a German digging a grave in the small village cemetery near where his plane went in in 1991. It wasn’t until 2008 that the US finally got clearance to visit the site and recover remains. Staff Sergeant John Hogan was laid to rest in Arlington in August 2012. He was 20 years old. My book covers a year of online research into the mission, his aircraft, other crew members, Luftwaffe pilots (I may have found the pilot who shot him down) and many other unique coincidences. It is about 70 pages long and has 170 embedded links to take you to what I found.

In March I sent 700 emails to 500 foundations and grant givers I had found in the Foundation Center’s online resources. I got about 50 positive replies. I need a grant writer to help sort this out.

We will be doing a Kickstarter campaign to help fund getting the warehouse up and running. Go to Kickstarter.com to get an idea of who they are.

I have created how-to-draw soldiers phone app for sale on the Apple, Android and Windows mobile platforms. jacAPPS, a Bingham Farms, MI, app developer company, is doing some pro-bono testing for us and then the app should be available in early July. It will sell for $1.99. All proceeds (after the stores take their 30% or so commission) will go directly to the nonprofit’s bank account. They will not pass through my own bank account.

Finally, I ask (actually, need) all of you who read this post to follow me on Twitter, @TWAP_Ray.

Thank you very much for your interest in helping The Wounded Artist Project expand our mission and continue serving.

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