Help Heal Veterans, a nonprofit organization founded during the Vietnam War in 1971, supplies free therapeutic kits to injured servicemen and women and our military veterans. The therapy kits often become a part of the patient’s treatment plan, providing a creative outlet for stress and boredom and a way to rebuild confidence and self-esteem. Help Heal Veterans has distributed more than 32 million kits since its inception from hundreds of craft designs. Help Heal Veterans has continued to fulfill our mission, donating over 350,000 therapeutic craft kits to military service members and veterans in 2019. We work closely with the individual veterans and clinicians to provide the right kit to meet the veteran’s specific needs.
Whether it’s restoring coordination and impaired motor skills, improving concentration, or relieving symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, our goal is to give veterans what they need to heal. Many of our therapy kits are produced from the ground up at our warehouse in Winchester, CA. And, thanks to generous individual donors and partners such as La-Z-Boy, The Elks Club, American Woodmark, Plaid, AFCI, Arise Veterans Foundation, and Southwest Airlines, we can provide therapeutic craft kits at no cost to our recovering military and veterans. Commitment to sustainability is at the forefront of our mission. We instill a drive to ensure the long-term existence of our natural resources, our donation partners and the human talent necessary to provide the products and services.
We provide numerous therapy kits through recycled and upcycled goods while ensuring the well-being of the veterans we serve. A great example of this collaboration occurred in 2019 when we partnered Southwest Airlines, Arise Veteran Foundation and Exceed (a local nonprofit that works with disabled clients to fulfill their desire to work). Our combined contributions kept 80,000 pounds of materials upcycled and out of landfills. This program is on target to expand in 2020 to keep over 120,000 pounds of recycled plane seats out of landfills and have a second life as therapeutic crafts for veterans. Our combined efforts on this one program yielded $1.1 million dollars in retail value of kits and provided 37,805 kits to veterans in need. But, that is not the whole picture on sustainability.
In 2019, Help Heal Veterans repurposed over 320,000 pounds of materials by recycling and upcycling, creating 91,442 therapeutic kits with a retail value of over $3,000,000 in new therapeutic craft kits that was then 100% donated to rehabilitating veterans. Kits include a wide variety of crafts and materials such as leatherwork, models, woodwork, jewelry, painting, needlecrafts, poster art, scrapbooks, and many more, in which they were proud to display and handout during the 2020 AFCI Creativation. At Creativation 2020, we partnered with a craft industry influencer, Lynn Lilly, the mastermind behind Craft Box Girls, to design our Creativation booth. The inspiration behind the booth stemmed from patriotism and the diversity of crafts that we provide at the core of our mission. Creativation afforded us the opportunity to collaborate with craft industry leaders and created a space to share their sustainability mission in conjunction with Southwest Airlines, and most importantly, the healing process of the crafts with the crafting stations. At our booth, our Director of Production and Warehouse Management, Chip Purkey provided instruction in detail behind the science of the crafts. Chip told me, “It truly was amazing how productive the showcase was for everyone involved.” AFCI and all of the supporting corporations always go above and beyond to help those in need. As a nod to Help Heal Veterans’ sustainability mission, Creativation named us the nonprofit/ harvesting partner for the show, which meant that Help Heal Veterans was able to collect all unused inventory from the vendors. The collected donations filled a 26-foot truck worth of goods (nearly half a semi-truck).
Since Creativation 2020, Help Heal Veterans has sent out nearly 3/4 of the materials to VA Medical Centers and our crafting partners across the nation. The materials are actively being used for therapy kits by veterans as we speak. As a result of AFCI’s and Help Heal Veterans’ partnership to upcycle, less waste ends up in landfills that are polluting our environment at an alarming rate. Working with others, We sincerely thank the AFCI members who have donated to Help Heal Veterans at Creativation over the past year: Clover Needlecraft, Plaid, Design Master Color Tool, Life of the Party, Lion Brand Yarn Company, Activa Products, Darice, Advantus Corp, Sargent Art, HMS Mfg, The Hedgehog Hollow, Sliver Creek Leather Company, ArtBin, Golden Global Sales, DecoArt, Hemptique, Supertite Adhesives, Surebonder, Studio Designs, Eclectic Products, Fabric Editions, Hampton Art, Beacon Adhesives, Pepperell Braiding, Marvy Uchida, Xyron, DAP, Royal Brush, Everything Mary and various anonymous donors. we aspire to reshape the way we work to achieve significant and lasting improvement and social outcomes in a way that also allows us to fulfill our mission.
In 2020, we strive to beat our 2019 record of recycling over 320,000 pounds of materials. We began this venture in Phoenix, Arizona, thanks to the steady stream of the generous donations that poured in from Creativation. We also continue recycling plane seats donated by our partner, Southwest Airlines, and they plan to recycle over the equivalent of 160 planes worth of seats (approximately 30,000 seats in total) this year. Rounding out the year, we are planning on teaming up with the VA Medical Centers to host events centered around September 11th as a national day of service, and planning a motorcycle ride for Veterans and those who support veterans in Southern California this coming fall. Last but not least, we met a very crucial potential new partner at Creativation—the Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) worldwide team that supports our active-duty military. This new partnership will yield amazing possibilities for 2020.
It is always fulfilling on our end to talk with the public about the healing power of crafting, especially when it is healing our nation’s veterans. In a crafting community environment such as Creativation, you are surrounded by people who already “get it,”. As the medical community continues to embrace additional therapies and step away from drugs, events like Creativation will continue to grow in value to the consumer, end-user and industry companies to learn more about utilizing art as both a hobby and healing destination. This process and meeting of the minds truly makes us better together. Today, Help Heal Veterans’ focus has been placed on the preparation and implementation to support a very vulnerable population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Help Heal Veterans has made a concerted effort with The Department of Veterans Affairs to help support healing veterans in need.
Many of our nation’s veterans are labeled high-risk and are in lockdown with little contact from others (no visitors, no family allowed, no volunteers, and limited staff interaction). COVID-19 is overwhelming, but being alone in a pandemic crisis is terrifying. The frontline struggles continue, and Help Heal Veterans continues to answer the call. While our staff is limited to scope during the COVID-19 lockdown, their essential mission is ongoing. Nationally, through March, Help Heal Veterans distributed over 38,000 kits to over 30 medical centers. During April, that demand has tripled, and they now have requests from over 90 VA hospitals and military bases across the globe. Help Heal Veterans craft kits are utilized in restoring coordination and impaired motor skills, improving concentration, or relieving symptoms of depression and PTSD. The goal is to give veterans what they need to heal during this time of dire need: relief.
Want to Help?
If you would like to donate, you can reach us at www.healvets.org/donate or if you have materials that you find while doing your spring cleaning that might fit our mission, please reach us at email@example.com. While we can’t recycle everything, we will try our best to work with you and recycle your crafting goods. You might be surprised by how creative we are! Stay up to date with Help Heal Veterans by following our website, www.healvets.org, and on Facebook or Twitter.