East Texas veteran service organizations receive over $1 million in grants

From top left, Habitat for Humanity of Smith County CEO Jack Wilson, East Texas Veterans Resource Center Health Care Navigator Wallace Revalee, Ark-Tex Council of Governments Transportation Coordinator Sheena Record and Transportation Planner Veronica Williams pose with grants from the Texas Veterans Commission on Wednesday. At bottom, Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity Director of Operations Gennifer Coleman poses with a grant from TVC.

The Texas Veterans Commission’s Fund for Veterans’ Assistance presented over $1 million in grants to six organizations in East Texas for providing services to approximately 5,400 veterans last Wednesday.

The yearly grant presentation was held at Habitat for Humanity of Smith County ReStore in Tyler.

The six grant recipients consisted of Ark-Tex Council of Governments, Community Services of Northeast Texas, Inc., East Texas Council of Governments, Habitat for Humanity of Smith County, Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity and Community Healthcore.

TVC commissioners approved these grant awards in May as part of an overall grant program providing 147 grants to organizations across Texas. The grants this year totaled $33.4 million, including over $1 million that was presented in East Texas.

Funding for these grants is generated primarily by veterans’ cash lottery tickets designated for veteran support. Other sources of funding for the grants come from donation options on drivers’ licenses, licenses to carry a handgun, outdoor recreation licenses for hunting and fishing and vehicle registrations.

Commissioner Kimberlee Shaneyfelt of the Texas Veterans Commission said she’s grateful to the Texas agencies that take care of veterans.

“I think that Texas is the best in the nation when taking care of our veterans. We couldn’t do what we do in the TVC if it wasn’t for all of these helping agencies that take care of our veterans,” Shaneyfelt said.

Shaneyfelt says the donation option when getting a driver’s license or hunting and fishing or handgun license actually makes an impact.

“It’s such a tiny thing, a one or two dollar effort. When you have many of those you can see the power of that with $33 million dollars in grants in 2021 and over $200 million dollars in the history of the program since 2009,” she said. “That small donation or that lottery ticket that you buy is powerful when it’s aggregated across the state of Texas.”

During the event, each organization in attendance received its check and detailed how the money helps out local veterans.

Habitat for Humanity of Smith County CEO Jack Wilson emphasized how the grants will help with their yearly critical home repairs.

“They have to make a choice between food or medicine and they can’t fix their home. There’s nowhere else in Smith County or other organizations that do critical repairs in their homes. Smith County Habitat is their safety net,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he has seen sewage damages in homes and he is happy Habitat can assist with 100 to 150 yearly critical repairs.

“I’ve walked into homes, I’ve seen holes in the floor and I’ve seen the roof falling in. When that happens and it’s not fixed, the rain comes in or mold gets created. We’ve seen people that actually sleep in other rooms because the rain comes in their bedrooms,” he said. “In one case the lady was sleeping on her porch. Or they sleep in their winter clothes.”

Wilson said Smith County Habitat has done 1,200 critical repairs for veterans, seniors and people with disabilities. He also emphasized this couldn’t be done without the grant tour from Texas Veterans Commission.

The assistance for veterans is divided up among five different categories: general assistance, housing for Texas heroes, veterans mental health grants, veterans treatment courts and veteran county service officers.

The grants also support a wide range of services, including emergency financial assistance, transportation, legal services, family support services, home modification, and rental and mortgage assistance.

The six grant recipients for the various categories were:

General Assistance grants

Ark-Tex Council of Governments — one grant for $5,000 to fund transportation services for veterans in Lamar County.

Community Services of Northeast Texas, Inc. – one grant for $300,000 to fund financial assistance for veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses in 15 counties across East Texas.

East Texas Council of Governments – one grant for $150,000 to fund transportation services and programs for veterans in 14 counties, including Panola.

Housing for Texas Heroes grants

Habitat for Humanity of Smith County – one grant for $150,000 to fund home modifications for veterans and surviving spouses in seven counties.

Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity – one grant for $200,000 to fund home modifications for veterans in three counties.

Community Healthcore (Sabine Valley Regional Mental Health Center) – two grants for a total of $200,000:

  • $150,000 general assistance grant funding support services for veterans, dependents and surviving spouses in 12 counties across East Texas, including Panola.
  • $50,000 mental health grant funding peer support services for veterans, dependents and surviving spouses in 12 counties across East Texas, including Panola.

Veterans in need of assistance can find the organizations providing help in their area and how to make contact at tvc.texas.gov/grants/assistance/.

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