“I wanted to do something to honor my father,” explains Rhonda Harris, founder of the Veterans Resource Program. In the five years that the Program has been open in Richmond, Harris has worked to make the center a cornerstone in the lives of local veterans.
This Veterans Day, the Veterans Resource Program is partnering with the office of Mayor Tom Butt and opening its doors to the community for a one-of-a-kind fair.
The Veterans Resource Fair runs Wednesday, November 11 from 11 am to 2 pm at the Veterans Resource Program, 934 Maine Avenue, in Richmond. The event will offer everything from assistance finding housing, to a resume workshop, to legal advice, and even haircuts.
“We’re expanding beyond the programs we typically offer,” says Harris, who describes the Veterans Resource Program as a vital hub for local vets. “A number of community partners stepped forward to make this Veterans Day something special. It’s an open door to [veterans], their families, and the whole community.”
The event Wednesday and the work of the Veterans Resource Program fills gaps in veterans care in Richmond.
“Rhonda's organization is the last vestige of veterans organization's presence in Richmond,” says Mayor Tom Butt. After the closure of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Richmond several years ago and until Harris opened the Program, local veterans didn’t have an easy way to access assistance programs.
Harris has seen first-hand the need for the services provided at the Program.
“In my career at a workforce development program, I came across a lot of veterans, who were deemed an ‘extremely difficult to serve population,’ and with the passing of my father, who was a veteran of Korea, I felt the need to do something,” Harris explains. “We’ve had hundreds of veterans come through here now, some for just a day, others for longer.”
Harris works to make the Veterans Resource Program a place where veterans can socialize, or seek more serious care. There are nearly 50,000 homeless veterans in the United States today, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, though the exact number is hard to estimate.
To Harris, it is important that the Program be a place where “[veterans] can some in and clean themselves off, become stabilized, and receive various programs to get on their feet.”
The Veterans Resource Program now offers seven beds for vets to stay for as long as they need, but Harris is working to expand the scope of the organization.
“Our mission now is to grow our programs and expand,” she says. “In the future we would like to have a space for women and children only, and an emergency center, too, where people can receive care right when they need it.”
The event this Veterans Day is a step towards increasing the number of people who receive help from the Program, as well as expanding the types of services provided. Harris expects almost 200 people to attend on Wednesday.
“It will be a fun-filled day,” Harris says. “We’re expecting lots of laughter and camaraderie, which is what the Veterans Resource Program is all about.”
To learn more about the Veterans Resource Program, click here.
Photo: Veterans Resource Program