“We provide housing and emergency fi- nancial assistance. We can also help a combat injured veteran transition into a career, but what we really focus on are the major factors that contribute to veterans sui- cide,” states Trace Chesser, President & CEO of USA Cares and combat veteran. “I dealt with that after my service. I really struggled with a loss sense of purpose and dealt with some pretty severe depression, PTSD myself. The services we provide at USA Cares are helping to reduce factors that can actually contribute to veterans suicide.”
With suicide rates alarmingly high among veterans, the pandemic created even more hardships in unprecedented numbers. Or- ganizations like USA Cares had to shift quick- ly to the growing needs within the military community. In 2020, USA Cares began to feel the strain on their resources as many organi- zations began referring veterans to them in record numbers. According to Chesser, “It really hit our team hard because it was just so much more than we expected. When all this happened, we had a fundraising event scheduled but immediately had to shut ev- erything down. However, the needs kept coming in. We saw a 60 percent increase in requests asking for help.”
Now, as the restrictions have lifted, USA Cares is hitting the ground running with two major events back-to-back with a Val- halla golf event on July 19th and the popular USA Cares Gala on August 7th at the Marriott Downtown. Chesser is hopeful that these ef- forts will see a resurgence in support. ”We've not sold out yet, but we've had a huge re- sponse. With the golf event, our goal is to raise over two hundred thousand dollars to help our military families that are in crisis.”
While the mission for USA Cares has re- mained focused on crisis assistance since 2003, they are now offering comprehensive programming with financial literacy through a partnership with Abound Credit Union (formerly Fort Knox Federal Credit Union).
“They provide us a lot of resources and funds to help veterans and their families. We also have a career transition and train- ing program online to help coach and train service members on how to get employed or get a better job. Maybe they're highly skilled and did some great things in the military but they don’t know how to translate or explain it. They also may be in a job below their skill set and could be doing something greater.”
Chesser is also exploring ways to get more people involved in starting chapters nation- wide. “If you're motivated and you have a huge network, you're perfect for starting a chapter. We have the tools, we have the peo- ple. We know how to help you get going. Get involved, start a chapter, volunteer or help us raise money to assist our veterans.”
To find out more about USA Cares, log onto usacares.org