FEASTING WITH THE VETERANS
I volunteered for Divide Camp for about a year and saw for myself the direct benefits veterans gain who visit this encampment.
I was present in the fall of 2014 when a group of three vets, Marshall, Aaron and Corey, came up for a long weekend. There was no hunting or fishing trip scheduled. They only wanted to spend time at camp. I anticipated that they would sit around and chat or read- like a mini-vacation. But soon after arriving, they were asking Julie, the director, what they could do to help around camp. Marshall and Corey got busy with handyman projects. Aaron moved a stack of wood.
I pitched in and helped Aaron with the wood. I asked how had he learned of Divide Camp. He said from another vet, but he was wary at first.
“There are so many so-called organizations out there saying they want to help veterans, but they exploit them and are frauds. I did a lot of research on the Internet about Divide Camp, and talked to others. I saw it is the real deal,” he explained.
Divide Camp has no connections to the Wounded Warrior Project, which has been in the news recently for its mismanagement of donations which landed in the pockets of high-salaried employees before it reached the veterans it is supposed to serve. Divide Camp has no paid personnel and is overseen by a volunteer Board, consisting of volunteer veterans and civilians.
As a volunteer, I personally saw how conscientious Director Julie Wheeler manages the DC budget- every penny spent is with the well-being of the veterans in mind.
While serving Divide Camp, the opportunity arose for me to write full time. My heart was torn because I love the mission of Divide Camp, “Helping them heal, one warrior at a time.” Yet I felt like I had to pursue my writing.
Divide Camp’s fundraising banquet is April 30. Tickets are for sale online with a credit card at www.dividecamp.org or at the Blonde Strawberry, the Bookloft, and the Sports Corral. In La Grande they may be purchased at All Air Heating and Air Conditioning. Sponsorships help cover the overhead costs and provide tickets to local veterans.
In the future I will share personal stories about what I observed at Camp and how it helps veterans. For now, I hope you will attend the banquet and hear their own stories.
Published April 20, 2016 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission.