Crystal River, FL–The Mission United program is a veteran-services program offered by the Citrus County United Way. Its “mission” is to aid Citrus County veterans in the areas of employment, legal, education, finance, health, housing, and mentorship. It is one of four programs the Citrus County United Way sponsors and it one of only 20 such programs across the country.
The program was inspired by the grave need within the Citrus County veteran community; local veterans who need support groups, were previously faced with commuting to Ocala or Gainesville to seek help in a variety of fields. Many such veterans in need either lack transportation or only have access to limited transportation to get them to out-of-county resources.
The first step was acquiring the necessary funds for the creation of such a program and finding the right person to lead it. In the spring of this year, Amy Meek, CEO of the United Way, spearheaded a successful $120,000 fundraising campaign that included a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy. Then, in June, the United Way announced local veteran advocate, and Purple Heart recipient, Josh Langston White, to be its new program director.
Meek stated, “Our program is designed to serve Veterans in Citrus County by providing for unmet needs. I am so proud of the great work our team has done over the past 7 months. Under the leadership of Josh Langston White, we have been able to serve 70 local Veterans. We appreciate the many donors, volunteers and community partners who all make this possible.”
White lost both of his legs as a combat veteran when he served his country from 2011-2014 as a Marine 0351 Assaultman, injured in Afghanistan’s Helmand province but he doesn’t let his combat injuries rule his outlook or impact his work ethic. Just as White has overcome the physical limitations he faces as a double-amputee, as indicated in his post-active duty life as an avid golfer and a worker in the lawn service industry, he has also overcome the challenges he faces as the leader of an entirely new non-profit program. As such, he is inspirational to many and leads by example.
As director of the Mission United program, White is responsible for the administration of the program, establishing and maintain a vetting process for potential applicants to the program, dispelling misconceptions about the program, assisting in its fundraising, and discovering ways to rally local in veterans in need.
During a phone interview with the Standard, White explained that the program is designed to assist both low-income veterans and their family members who face situational hardships, indicating that of the approximately 70 people who have already received services in the last seven months, nine have been family members.
The program utilizes a DD-214 and verification of income to determine veteran status and financial need. White focused on “sustainability” during the interview rather than entitlement. “If someone comes in for employment, needs a job, we have partners in the community like Curry’s Roofing and Brian Williams Fencing, who have stepped up but if someone goes to Daystar and receives utility assistance the day before, we use a computer program called Clarity that allows local non-profits to compare notes and make sure that individuals aren’t taken advantage of the system.”
White was also quick to note that 100% of all funds received by the program goes to veterans.
Behind White is an advisory board chaired by local State Farm Insurance agent, Mike Bays; his son just recently returned from active military, duty, himself. Bays views the Mission United Program as “a clearinghouse of opportunities for the 26,000 veterans in our county. Working with the many organizations in Citrus that provide numerous areas of assistance, Josh is building a permanent staff to assure that our veterans have immediate and long-term options in areas of employment, legal assistance, education and career development, mental and physical health support, housing and mentorship. I am proud to be part of a meaningful organization.”
White also shared that he is currently establishing monthly support groups for local veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and group recreational outings designed to correspond with the team mentality that is taught in the armed services.
One may ask how they can help such a program.
According to White, in addition to volunteers, financial contributions are needed.
On March 12th, Mission United is organizing a golf tournament benefit to be held at Black Diamond and is actively seeking golfers and sponsors.
In the meantime, those interested in donating their time, talent, or money may contact (352) 795-5483 or visit the Mission United landing page at http://www.citrusunitedway.org/Mission-United-6-39.html. Checks should be made out to the Citrus United Way, but Mission United must be listed on the memo line for those funds to be entirely used towards local veteran case work.
Mission United is a Citrus United Way program designed to serve the needs of Citrus County veterans who face situational needs.
Submitted by Lou Newman, Publisher, on December 7th at 12:00 PM.
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