Salinas Californian – November 10, 2015

As a soft breeze lifted the American flag, a crowd bowed their heads in a moment of silence on Friday to reflect on the difference that the Monterey County Veteran Transition Center has made in the lives of hundreds of veterans.

The VTC helps veterans who are homeless, or are at risk of being homeless, by providing critical tools such as housing, education, vocational, substance abuse and economic assistance.

It hosted an open house on Friday to not only show off the work it’s doing but also look to the future as it conducts substantial renovations at the VTC’s Martinez Hall, enhances services offered to veterans and begins a permanent housing project that could provide homes to more than 170 people within the next few years.

Pacific Grove resident Bruce McGlynn served in the U.S. Army between 1974 and 1998. Once he finished his service, he started caring for his aunt.

After she passed away in 2013, McGlynn became homeless for about a year, but with the assistance of the VTC, he has been able to start accessing services he didn’t even know were available, get off the streets, and turn his life around.

“It’s getting everyone to understand it, because I didn’t understand it,” he said.”It’s getting vets to know what’s available,”

More than that, there was a priceless camaraderie at VTC for McGlynn as he connected with other veterans who were also battling homelessness.

Veteran Daniel Cherny navigates paperwork with the help of Laura Cortez, a housing management specialist with the Veterans Transition Center in Marina. (Photo: Jay Dunn/The Salinas Californian)

The U.S. Office of Veteran Affairs tracks veterans after they leave the VTC’s program to evaluate how effective it is in terms of helping veterans with substance abuse, housing and employment issues.

In that light, the VTC already boasts an impressive success rate at 93 percent and is one of the few organizations in the country that also offers assistance and support to veterans’ families as well as to single men and women, said VTC Deputy Executive Director Edwin Marticorena.

With a seemingly endless list of new projects, staff and board members proudly showed off how they hope to expand services and outreach during the open house on Friday.

Martinez Hall is the headquarters for VTC, and with a gift from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, the space is being remodeled to assist even more Monterey County veterans.

Through a donation from The Marina Foundation, the new Veterans Food Pantry at the VTC has also improved and expanded to feed more veterans that ever.

A proposed development project called the Lightfighter Village will provide permanent housing to veterans with construction expected to begin in 2017.

And a new Job Development Center will further help veterans become “employment ready,” a crucial factor for veterans successfully leaving the program.

While speaking at the open house, Congressman Sam Farr said veterans often join the service just out of high school, and once they leave, they’re challenged to cope with issues in civilian life that they’ve never encountered.

VTC, which is located on the former military base Ft. Ord, offers a safe haven for veterans to learn how to face those challenges, he said.

VTC is a nonprofit organization, and while it receives some support through things like grants, it needs substantial support from the private sector as well, Farr said.

“For civilians who want to know how to say ‘Thank you?’ This place is how you say ‘Thank you,'” he explained.

VTC Executive Director Terry Bare presented Farr and other supporters with T-shirts reading “I am VTC” on Friday.

“VTC consistently has 50 to 55 clients in housing out at historic Fort Ord,” Bare said, “And we are seeing much younger homeless and imminently-homeless veterans on a daily basis. Financial support is vital. Approximately 1,200 veterans entered our doors last year for information, potential housing, food, clothing and other assistance.”

The VTC always needs volunteers for the food pantry, donation pick-up, maintenance, and community events. Donations of gently-used clothing, furniture, fresh and frozen foods, canned goods, drought-tolerant plant and sponsors for rehabilitation of veterans homes are also needed.

Call 831-883-8387  or visit https://www.vtcmonterey.org/ for information on donations, sponsorship or to volunteer.