By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
Indian River County, Fla., is home to more than 15,000 veterans. Data from prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic indicated the challenges many of these veterans faced: 24% were unemployed, 5% were at poverty level, and 34% were disabled, according to the 2019 American Community Survey.
When the pandemic hit, the situation grew worse for many veterans and their families.
“COVID-19 has exploded the unemployment rate and thrown more veterans into poverty status,” said Lt. Col. Carroll Oates, USA (Ret), president of the Indian River Chapter of MOAA. “Many of these veterans have substandard living conditions. Their family well-being, safety, and security are suffering.”
Fortunately, a long-time partnership with the Veterans Council of Indian River County gave the chapter an opportunity to help.
The council, which comprises local veterans’ and military organizations and is chaired by a MOAA member, shifted the focus of one of its committees to assist those struggling because of the pandemic.
“We created a COVID-relief committee to help veterans affected by the pandemic,” Oates said.
Veterans and their families can apply for financial assistance to help pay for rent, bills, or other necessities.
To date, the committee has raised almost $400,000 for COVID relief. Successful fundraising events, such as a clay shoot and a gala, contributed to that total as well as grants the Indian River Chapter received through The MOAA Foundation.
Oates said he and his fellow chapter members are honored to give back to these veterans and their families.
“A veteran is someone who has written a blank check to the American people, payable up to and including one’s life,” he said. “These are the dedicated individuals that the veterans council has been proud to service since 1987.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.