Thanks for visiting!
Please see our slides for the Ribbon Cutting, The Veteran's Ball and The Gospel Fest by clicking the blue specified button to the left above.
Please see our recent YouTube video entitled: Veterans Challenge-Kinston
EVERYONE- VETERAN, ACTIVE MILITARY & NON-SERVICE MEMBERS ALIKE- EVERYONE, IS INVITED TO THE POT LUCK VETERANS DAY COMMUNITY CELEBRATION ON TUESDAY NIGHT, 7:00. BRING A COVERED DISH, 2-LITER BEVERAGE, OR BAG OF CHIPS TO THE EXPRESSIONS BUILDING AT VERNON PARK MALL (834 HARDEE RD., KINSTON, NC 28504). All Veterans Challenge monthly community programs are free, include entertainment, great information,community input, and prizes for all! THIS VETERANS DAY CELEBRATION INCLUDES THE MEAL AND VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY THE REMARK ABLE ANTUAN HAWKINS, AS WELL AS AUDIENCE SONGS OF
*SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, Jan. 18th, 2014 for the 2nd Annual Lenoir County Veterans Ball!! It's to honor anyone who has ever served in the United States Armed Services and their guests. (This year guests can be numerous- anyone in the community, any couple or single person whom purchases their ball tickets through a Service Member.) Check out last year's ball by seeing sample pictures on the slide show, by clicking on the navy blue Veterans Ball 2013 tab on the top left, then make your plans to join us for the upcoming 2014 ball! Come single and mingle, or as a couple for the fun to double!! Just attend one and all for a wonderful, honorable, fun time!!
Veterans Challenge Motto: "Promoting the
health & prosperity of Veterans and the community!"
Veteran: For the purpose of Veterans Challenge, a Veteran is any person that is, or has ever been, enlisted in one of the branches of the United States Military.
"We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone... but for all mankind." Franklin D. Roosevelt
Mission Statement: The mission of Veterans Challenge is to advocate and promote the general welfare and prosperity of U.S. military veterans by: providing assistance and referrals for vets and immediate family members. This endeavor is inclusive of mental health assistance for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) (combat-related & other), TBI (traumatic brain injury), marital and family counseling, substance abuse, DWI assessments, veteran incarcerations and recidivism, medical referral, and suicide prevention. It also includes pension and disability-filing, war veterans aid & assistance benefits, foreclosure prevention, employment, homeless veterans placement and care, housing opportunities, mortgage refinancing, health care contracts, dependent scholarship, access to benefits, business ownership, undergrad and graduate education, technical support and other specific trainings, athletic & talent referrals, cultural and utilization of the arts, veteran burial assistance, and memorials.
Also provided are entertainment, recreational avenues and opportunities for comraderie, as well as community enhancement and involvements to continue the veteran stance of protecting America's citizens and promoting God and Country.
Our vision: The vision of Veterans Challenge encompasses ideas and strategies galore that would involve the talents and skills of veterans interwoven within the fabric of the community. Our tax dollars are utilized to extensively train every individual that enters U.S. military services, to not only be a warrior to defend our Country if need be, and represent democracy in other areas of the globe, but with technology and leadership skills, expertise with various vehicles and equipment, and a conglomerate of other trainings. Military personnel assume roles of responsibility, for weaponry, some for high-dollar jets, planes, helicopters, submarines, tanks, ships, boats, trucks, and humvees,... some for a wide variety of technical equipment, but all have been responsible for other marines or soldiers, as well as the lives and safety of civilian personnel in America, and if not also, those beyond our borders. Whether one continues a career in the military, or is discharged, or retires, the talents and skills acquired have extensive value, and are greatly needed to enhance the lives of all in the community where the military person or veteran lives.
Veterans Challenge CEO is U.S. Army SSG Iraq Veteran Charity Hilterbrand Smith, BA, AP (Associate Professional in Mental Health with pending Masters in Counseling). Veterans Challenge Director is Debby Guthrie, MA, QP (Master's in Management & Leadership and Qualified Professional in Mental Health while working toward Masters in Counseling.)
A priority goal of Veterans Challenge is: Camp Veterans Challenge, a retreat for military PTSD, TBI, Substance Abuse, and other mental health maladies.
Those who attended Lenoir County's First Annual Fun Dance sponsored by Veterans Challenge, can testify to a fun time lead by the terrific band, "Sure Thing," (includes Air Force Veteran Rick Young), and additional jams and requests of D.J. Shon. A special thank you goes to Army Iraq Veteran Brian Jones who provided the "banging" BBQ chicken! Please acknowledge the following award recipients: Most Talented Dancer- Male: James Smith, Most Talented Dancer- Female: Sandra Juanice Simmons, Dancer with the most Endurance: Concetta Covington, Oldest Dancer: Leon Windley (76), Youngest Dancer: Braylen Taylor (3), Teen Dancer Favorite: Kiki Anthony, Child Dancer Favorite: Crystal Cheyenne Cheston, Young Adult Dancer Favorite: Doretha Benjamin, Adult Dancer Favorite: Dollie Joyner, Senior Adult Dancer Favorite: Karsem Windley, Most Talented Dance Couple: Tony and Rosa, Most Loving Dance Couple: Mr. and Mrs. Cauthen, Most Entertaining Dance Couple: Leon and Karsem Windley)
Upcoming Veterans Challenge Community Programs: (For everyone! Military and the community!)
Please add the following nights to your agenda, making note they all are held at the former Expressions bldg. of Vernon Park Mall (834 Hardee Rd. Kinston, NC 28504) and all begin at 7 pm, and attendance to all is free. They include relevant information, community input, entertainment, refreshments, and prizes for all: Tuesday, Nov. 12, Veterans Challenge Community Program with entertainment by the dynamic Antuan Hawkins, and special tribute..., Monday, Dec. 9, Veterans Challenge Community Program.
Monthly Veterans Challenge Community Programs are the 2nd Mondays of the month (with the exception of November which will be the next day-the Tuesday Nov. 12)after Veterans Day Monday) and include entertainment, refreshments, information, community input and prizes for all! The programs are free and for all!
Special Thank you's:
Thank you to U.S. Army Veteran Lennie Peterson (candidate for Kinston City Council), for your terrific talk and inspiration on the Oct. 14th Veterans Challenge Community Program! Also thank you "Blues Around the World," for the sensational entertainment presentation!
Thank you to Betty Jo Shepheard, Field Representative for Senator Richard Burr, who gave a very informative talk at the Sept. 7th Veterans Challenge Community Program.
Thank you to Dr.Calvin Ellison PHD, ND, CNC for your truly inspiring talk on vibrant living on Aug. 12. You are amazing and we expect to live healthier, longer lives through your instruction!
Thank you to Maurice Edwards for your encouragement and securing the marvelous Dr. Calvin Ellison as our Aug. 12th speaker.
Thank you Charles Sharpe for being the most wonderful volunteer ever! You are so terrific, go above and beyond to be helpful!
Thank you to all at the June 10th Community Program that participated in our karaoke! Your participation added to the fun! Also thank you to Moses and Consetta for your inspiring performance, and Braden Lantowsky for your motivational talk!
Thank you to Bonita Burney Simmons for the terrific inspiring performance at the May 13th Veterans Challenge Community Program. It's easy to see why Bonita took so many accolades at Appollo!
Thank you to Walgreen's of Kinston for another wonderful contribution to our prize selections!
Thank you to Cossetta Covington for your remarkable entertainment for the April 8th Veterans Challenge Community Program. God has certainly blessed you with a talent!
We would like to express a heartfelt thank you to those who attended and supported Lenoir County's First Annual Veterans Challenge Gospel Fest of March 23, 2013. It was indeed, spectacular!
We especially express grateful appreciation to the gracious gospel performers that made this blessed event so wonderful, and have included booking information that ministries and organizations might readily access these talented annointed performing artists: Living Waters Praise Team (252-775-2503), Wings of Joy (268-2918), Gospel Crusaders (252-526-8208), Recording Artist Eldress Lessette Kornegay (252-686-1222), Clay Johnson & Unity (252-933-1796), EnterAction youth praise & dance team of Groundbreaker's Ministry (252-286-8612), Recording Artists Yaheveh Concept (252-686-4261), Recording Artist Shacky D (252-521-0117), Crystal Cheyenne (252-361-1596), and Gospel Visionaires (252-286-2838).
We also wholeheartedly thank Vernon Park Mall and Manager Mike Ingalls, Rick Young for setting up stage, Kinston Free Press, Frank Roberson for use of equipment, volunteers Charles Sharpe, Jennifer Howard, Lloyd & Brenda Dove, IFIXNC, Danny Musse, Lansing Ray Allen, and the family of CoreyCo Roofing for Free Press ad and much volunteer work.
Free Press Article
(Colored Veterans Ball photos, our logo, the American Flag and military branch logos are on the top of this newspaper page 26 of www.kinston.com The Free Press of Sunday, February 10, 2013)
‘Ever been around a young child that pleads and pleads for something, but by the time that request is met, is asking for more, more, more of something else? I’m like that spoiled child right now. I’d like to further pitch a community challenge. But before I appear as a spoiled brat asking for more, know my previous pleadings have been for numerous things: an office, equipment, assistance for my veterans, space for community programs, support with them, … even a Veterans Ball! Lo and behold, I thank the Lord, and acknowledge Him, for blessings, and favor, and for speaking to the hearts of those who have helped make each request come true!
The night of January 12, 2013, when I finally laid my head on my pillow, I remember feeling like an excited, tired child, after a day of Christmas, still so thrilled after the Veterans Ball. Yet I also felt something else, not child-like at all, a feeling of senioritis perhaps, but I remember thinking, if I kicked the bucket before I woke, at least it was good knowing some deserving Veterans and their guests had a happy time tonight, and that made me so comfortably contented. Yes, indeed, the “First Annual Lenoir County Veterans Ball” was a sold-out crowd of happy folks enjoying themselves, so that mission was successfully accomplished leading the way to future annual balls (perhaps even bigger and better!), and catapulting our other endeavors into ACTION mode!
I received an email from Councilman Bobby Merritt, after sharing Veterans Ball pictures with him, encouraging me to “keep it going.” Now I picture any of you who will ride with me, on fantasy surfboards keeping the momentum high, the humongous swelling wave beneath us, and riding it in! WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! WE ARE ALREADY GATHERING BELIEVERS! SURFS UP! LET’S COME IN UNITY (COMMUNITY) AND TACKLE THE CHALLENGES!
What I am going to say next is going to strike a nerve with some of you, going to anger you at first but please bare with me. There is a committed slogan of the Armed Forces, “Never leave a fallen comrade.” My question however is, “Does that only mean don’t leave him or her in a combat area, or does it mean precisely never leave a fallen comrade?” Statistics qualify the point that too many comrades are left undiagnosed, or insufficiently treated. They and their family members are severely suffering. When Marines, Soldiers, American Veterans of all Military Branches, along with Caring Citizens of the Community accept the challenge, we can work toward rescuing the fallen comrades, and be their needed heroes.
Month after month some of us with Veterans Challenge have shared with participants at the Community Meetings, of concepts to assist with Veterans, that will simultaneously promote the betterment (prosperity) of our community. Folks obviously understand that when large numbers of our citizens have serious unmet needs, it affects all, either directly or indirectly. The original creation of Veterans Challenge by my daughter, highly decorated Iraq War Veteran Staff Sergeant Charity Hilterbrand (Smith) and myself, was for the purpose our motto designates: “Promoting the health and prosperity of Veterans and the community.” Our hope is to implement Camp Veterans Challenge, a Retreat for Combat PTSD and other Mental Health Maladies of the Military. We have a unique plan that was endorsed by doctors and professionals. We looked at property and drew designs. Sleepless nights still abound with plans for this, and truthfully, at first I didn’t understand the hold-ups. I thought the retreat would put us on the map, bring people from all over the world, make our approach to treatment so successful others will emulate it, and we’ll finally make true progress in the war of military mental health challenges and veteran suicides.
However I now believe God’s timing includes having strong community support and powerful allies, a network of committed people of this chosen area. Once we establish a community rapport with Active Military, Veterans and the People of Kinston and Lenoir County – once others outside also see this established priority, -when our Citizens see the big picture and buy into it, hook, line and sinker, -when we BELIEVE…when we are willing to not care who the messenger is, or how politically correct or affluent, or typical the program is, when we are willing to strip ourselves of judgmental attitudes and instead of finding fault with who or how, -but to choose, “No matter what anyone else does I plan to join this effort, let God use me, to serve in the battle, -no matter what my age, what my handicaps or talents, -be willing to be a soldier in this fight and make a needed difference,” -when we BELIEVE, with God’s help, we can ACHIEVE!
The wave is swelling higher and higher. Will you join in and ride it out? Will you take the risk? What does, “United we stand, divided we fall,” mean to you? If we are united do you believe anything being suggested here is too impossible? Do you also acknowledge that too much division will hinder or dissolve these endeavors from taking place in this community? So let’s lay out the battle plan, the strategy that requires enormous community involvement to gain the needed victory:
Develop a Veterans Pavilion in Kinston to network from– an expansive comfortable place for Active Military and Veterans of all ages to enjoy- to participate in a calendar of exciting events, have guest celebrities, from Hollywood Stars, Famous Athletes, Accomplished Entrepreneurs, Generals and Commanders, Renowned Evangelists, Musicians, Artists, People of significant talent and influence from near and far to entertain, motivate and encourage- as well as activities, contests, BBQ’s, Oyster Roasts…community competitions and fun involvements… Daily the Veterans Pavilion would be open as a hangout for Active Military and Veterans, -billiards, ping-pong, electronic games, movies, instructional DVD’s, interactive sites, a great study area, work-out section, counseling and treatment area, place for art expression, lot’s of books, resources, and incredible staff that makes each member feel appreciated. And can you even fathom Super Bowl 2014? A quazillion Veterans and guests all watching a gargantuan screen and hooping and hollering together in fun rivalry, eating, hanging, bonding…!
And when does this happen? When will the millions of dollars be raised and the ground-breaking for the bull-dozers and infrastructure begin? In ten years? Five? What about if we want to open the doors May 2013??* Will you help? Those that have been attending the monthly Veterans Challenge Community Meetings know the plans to turn the former Expressions/Brody’s building of Vernon Park Mall into this projected Veterans Pavilion.
Active Military and Veterans from other areas would also benefit having membership in the Lenoir County Veterans Pavilion because even if they only frequent it occasionally, the free community sponsored meals, monthly prizes, entertainment and involvements when they do, will make their membership well worth it. Besides when they, and their family and friends, join in on some of the community events sponsored by the Veterans Pavilion they get free or discounted tickets, plus area restaurants, motels, gyms, and entertainment venues give discounts to Veterans Pavilion members!
Yes, the Veterans Pavilion is only a dream, one that even Gary Cunha MSW, LCSW, the North Carolina State Veteran Suicide Prevention Coordinator, whom has supported Veterans Challenge since our first community meeting in May 2012, stated again at our recent Jan. 14, community program, that with all the progress being made getting so many Active Military and Veterans diagnosed properly and getting them the mental health treatment needed, that though there are more being successfully helped, the numbers of Veteran suicides are significantly rising! He confronted the assembly endorsing the Veterans Pavilion idea and community support being a definite worthy endeavor!
Hundreds of active military while in Iraq formerly and more recently in Afghanistan have been committing suicide each year, while thousands of active military and veterans at home in the United States each year have also been taking their own lives. Repetitive deployments increase the risks. Remaining with ineffective treatment increases the risk. Being prepped and in an environment for months on end (war zone), whether the person actually is involved in combat or not, but while eating, working, playing, sleeping…always being what I call, ”half-cocked,” ready to trigger, ready to hit the deck, dodge an IED, react in an ambush, save a comrade or even the innocent local child… this constant immersion of the brain chemicals, the fight or flight responses that protect individuals and those they choose to selflessly protect, -this chemical erosion from too long of a period of time actually may cause physical brain changes and injuries in some individuals, often our bravest protectors.
Brain injuries can cause severe emotional plummets, like suddenly walking off a cliff. Moods of anger or depression can accelerate rapidly and suddenly peak. Changes in personality, rages, hallucinations, pain, insomnia, an urge to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, a need to not be alone, a fear of self-harm, lack of intimacy, an urge to be alone, suicidal ideation,… can all occur. Things may appear good, fine, tolerable, ok, great, not so good, then, “OH my gosh, I can’t live like this; I just wanna die!” Spouses, Significant Others, Family Members, Close Friends …may all need to be part of successful treatment, and at least be specifically informed. A lot of older Veterans too have dealt with symptoms for years and may be in need of mental health treatment, yet they can share a game of pool or enjoy a plate of good barbecue with a younger Vet and offer valuable counsel. As I’ve said in The Free Press before, “Some of our Veterans are pillars while some are suffering.” This community can offer caring, appreciation and involvements, as well as crisis interventions, information, a safety net and camaraderie. ‘Know what else is an effective therapeutic treatment? FUN. Let’s provide it all, professional expert psychological assistance, a network of community compassion and encouragement, honor, opportunities for active military, Veterans and their family members and friends, challenges to aspire toward, education and assistance, relationship-building, and lot’s of FUN!
Another effective form of therapy is INVOLVEMENT. Veterans assisting with activities and needs in the community, teens, seniors, people, helpful projects… utilize their skills, strengths, willingness, talents and compassion while affecting the prosperity of others may positively affect their own strides toward health. A Veterans Pavilion can supply a web to grow other community projects, lot’s of community prosperity.
OK our arms are outstretched and we are balancing, our feet aligned and this huge wave is enormous, and it’s terrific work, but there’s a point we look forward to where the work lessens and it’s almost effortless coasting, soaring, enjoying the exuberant ride. To get there, offer to volunteer, find out how you or your business, ministry or organization can assist. (TOMORROW, MONDAY, FEB. 11, 2013, PLEASE ATTEND THE VETERANS CHALLENGE COMMUNITY PROGRAM AT 7:00 AT THE FORMER EXPRESSIONS/BRODY’S BUILDING AT VERNON PARK MALL (PRAYERFULLY TO BECOME LENOIR COUNTY’S VETERANS PAVILION VERY SOON). THE MEETING IS FREE AND FOR EVERYONE. THERE WILL BE ENTERTAINMENT, REFRESHMENTS, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, PRIZES FOR ALL, INFORMATION, AN ACTION PLAN, AND COMMUNITY INPUT. ALSO GOSPEL FEST TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR THOSE WISHING TO SELL OR PURCHASE THEM.
Also please add to your agendas the March Veterans Challenge Community Program, again the second Monday, also the 11, then on Saturday, March 23 please attend Lenoir County’s First Annual Veterans Challenge Gospel Fest from 3 to 9:00. It’s going to be spectacular! Tickets are just $6 each for six hours of fantastic gospel talent and a $1,000 cash drawing (Must be present to win). Tickets are discounted to $5 for anyone purchasing their tickets through a Veteran. Children under twelve are free when no more than two are accompanied by an adult. Bring extra cash to buy CD’s, food, etc. Any group wanting to do a vendor space, call to schedule, agreeing that 10% of sales is donated to Veterans Challenge (for Veterans Pavilion). One half of proceeds from ticket sales, after performers receive cut, goes to Veterans Challenge toward Veterans Pavilion. Top prize for selling the most tickets is $200. Please pass the word, through forwards, social media, personal invites, etc.
Soon we plan to start accepting Veterans Pavilion Memberships at the Charter price of just $9 per month! (Price never goes up for these members. First month dues begins May, 2013!) Steady on our surfboards; it’s an exciting ride for sure!!
Prior to Lenoir County’s First Annual Veterans Ball I boldly proclaimed in The Free Press, “It’s going to be wonderful!” Now I boldly proclaim, “Lenoir County’s First Annual Veterans Challenge Gospel Fest is going to be spectacular!” – Debby Guthrie
(red box with Gospel Fest insert)
Lenoir County’s First Annual Veteran’s Challenge Gospel Fest
Saturday, March 23, 2013 Tickets $6 per person, $5 when purchased by Active Military or Veteran
Kids 12 and under free
3 to 9 pm at the former Expressions/Brody’s bldg. at Vernon Park Mall (834 Hardee Rd., Kinston, NC 28504)
$1,000 cash drawing prize – ticket holder must be present to win
Fun, food, activities and CD’s for sale
Tickets can be purchased at the Veterans Challenge Office, 2 door from DMV at Vernon Park Mall
(medium box with Veteran Organization dates) Upcoming dates to choose for your agendas:
*******Monday, Feb. 11, 7:00 Veterans Challenge Community Meeting 7:00, VPMall
Feb 22 – 24, Freedom Classic Navy vs Air Force
1 Thursdays monthly, American Legion, 7:00 meal & mtg. Lodge
2 Thursdays monthly, VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) 7:00 meal & mtg. Lodge
3 Thursdays monthly, Marine Corps League, 7:00 meal & mtg. Lodge
Monday, March 11, 7:00 Veterans Challenge Community Meeting 7:00 VPM
Saturday, March 23, 3 to 9:00 Veterans Challenge Gospel Fest 3 to 9:00 VPM
OPINION section of The Free Press / www.kinston.com p 26 Sunday, February 3, 2013
Letters to the editor
Veterans Ball honored vets with night of fun
When a plan goes together so well, it may be divine providence. It can also reflect kind people in a caring community pulling together.
Lenoir County's First Annual Veterans Ball was held for a sold out crowd at the ballroom of Kinston's Hampton Inn on Saturday night, Jan. 12. Active military, veterans and their guests came from near and far, representing all six branches of the armed forces, men and women aged 25 through 95. Wars were represented from World War II, Korean conflict, through Iraq and Afghanistan. Our honored came with one mission - FUN. By the time the doors opened at 5 p.m. Rick and Jane Vernon began the first of their fabulous repertoire of songs, and the dance floor began hopping, and stayed occupied throughout the night. It appeared the mission was accomplished, as Betty Moore stated, "The entertainment was wonderful, the food was wonderful, everything was wonderful."
The live entertainment included music to shag to, country, belly-rubbin', Elvis's "Return to Sender," and Patty Paige's, "Tennessee Waltz..." Guest requests were also satisfied, as Kinston DJ Shon Bruingon took over mid-evening while dance moves such as "Electric Slide," "Cupid Shuffle" and an array of past and current hip hop, R&B and other favorites were enjoyed. There were prizes and gifts for all, souvenir photographs taken by Michael Taylor of Williamson's Photography, awards for youngest and oldest veteran present, and the couple married the longest. All present engaged in voting for the king and queen representing this year's ball.
One gentleman told me, "If your purpose was to honor us, I believe everyone in attendance feels you have done that, and everyone I've talked to say they're having a great time and are looking forward to next year's ball!"
I know I can brag I got to dance with some honorable veterans and one an especially handsome pilot I've come to adore. He asked if he could address the crowd and charmed us all with his love for life, his experiences in World War II and how he credits his mama's prayers for redirecting his steps at treacherous times. Last month at the Veterans Challenge Community Meeting we gave him presents and sang "Happy (95th) Birthday" to him. When all the votes were tallied at the concluding hour of the Veterans Ball, my favorite pilot, Guy Skinner, and his beautiful friend, Peggy Vandiford, were crowned the 2013 Lenoir County Veterans Ball King and Queen! How royal they appeared indeed!
It was Jennifer Howard's inspiration for Veterans Challenge of Lenoir County to host a Veterans Ball and I delighted in seeing her and her Marine husband enjoying themselves at it. I am also so proud this county was so supportive. I would like to ask our residents to frequent and support the following businesses and thank the people responsible: Linda Jones and Kinston's Hampton Inn for being so generous in permitting us the ballroom and being so gracious; Rick and Jane Vernon for being so giftedly talented and superb human beings; the monetary donations of William C. Stallings of Stallings Plumbing, Heating & AC of Kinston; and Dr. Kenneth LeRoy Klein of East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery of New Bern; the prizes, gifts and extra services of The Free Press, TACC9, Kinston's DJ Shon Bruingon with Entertainment Xpress; Chef and the Farmer; CoreyCo Roofing; Brown's Treats; O'Reiley's; Walgreen's; Smith's Cafe; Corporate Resources; Cubbie's; Olympian Restaurant; Main Moon; Living Waters International Ministry; Papa John's Pizza; Sherry Wilner Massage Therapist of Bear Town BodyWork, New Bern; and Charles Anderson of Select Food Service.
Please also give an extra word of appreciation to our awesome volunteers: Jennifer Howard, Lansing Ray Allen, Norma Brown Sutton, Charles Sharpe, Lou Jones, William Coffin, Marissa Wade, Terry Carmon, Linda Tripp, and Merry Faith Palazzo. Thank yo one and all, and may God heap extra blessings on you each in 2013 and beyond! Jennifer and I have already been making plans toward Lenoir County's Veterans Ball, Jan. 11, 2014! (In all we do at Veterans Challenge and in Lenoir County) "Let next year make this year look like the pregame."
Debby Guthrie, Director
Guest Column of Dec. 5, 2012 Kinston Free Press
by Debby Guthrie
I would like to throw out a challenge to every man and woman of the Lenoir County area to make a choice and either disagree with the Kinston Champion plan and offer something better, or support this project to save our mall, encourage betterment for our veterans, our youth, and prosperity for all of our community.
If you make a stand on one choice or the other, and follow-up with positive action, you are choosing to make a difference that will impact present and future generations substantially. The alternative, it seems, would be indifference, apathy, and counterproductive to progress.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; and we must take teh current when it serves, or lose our ventures." - Julius Caesar, Act IV Scene III William Shakespeare.
As the pitcher of this challenge, I am merely the insignificant servant deploying what I believe to be a concept of divine persuasion; if anytime over the years I have stepped on your toes, you don't have to like me - remember this is not about me, and it's not about you: it's bigger than us.
This challenge is particularly put in the ball field of Patrick Holmes, B.J. Murphy, Joe Tyson, Tony Sears, Mike Jarman, George W. Graham, Buddy Ritch, Dawn Stroud, Bill Ellis, Greg Hannibal, Adrian King, Jimbo and Joan Perry.
This also includes all our past and present city and county political leaders, professionals, Committee of 100, members such as Martin Arthur, Guy Basden, Eric Cantu, Victor Kosinski, Guy Skinner, Herman McLawhorn, Fred Hunneke, Pastor Evelyn Coleman.
Veteran, organizational and business leaders like Stephen Hill, Laura Lee Sylvester, Kay Johnson, Michael Ingalls, Gerald Forest, Leon and Rev. Sherri Ezzell, Jim Bailey, Reece Gardner, Rev. Bonnie Clark, Rev. Rick & Jane Vernon are also needed, along with local Realtors, especially pastors, media reporters, college instructors, teachers, trainers and coaches.
Surely we see the obvious - nobody benefits when more of our businesses close, Vernon Park Mall gives up the ghost and more of our city residents transfer to other locations for employment.
Few areas of the globe have a more talented journalist than our Kinston Free Press Editor, Patrick Holmes. I'd like Patrick to utilize his gifted powers to implore with various of our community elite, their opinion, (including his own wise perspective) to make a public hard copy forum, to either shoot down the Kinston Champion proposal (see guest column of Nov. 7 at Kinston.com or veteranschallenge.org) with an alternative solution, skillfully promote the Kinston Champion proposal, citing citizen backing, or state the population is disinterested and unwilling to get involved.
The increasing wave of local support for veteran events has been so very encouraging. Sanderson Farms, Spirit AeroSystems, the Woodmen Community Center, the new Veterans Home, HammerOut Crossfit Training Facility - are all remarkable forward steps for this community, but more is needed soon before it's too late. Of the small number of mall stores remaining, some are hanging on by a thread.
Some local veterans are doing exceptionally well while many suffer with mental, physical and financial needs. Numbers of our community are struggling. To add the Veterans Pavillion, the other community projects for our teens, seniors, kids, the Kinston's Got Talent stage, the decrease in utilities and crime and the numerous community involvement projects outlined in the Kinston Champion Project, would only encourage more folks to visit Kinston and participate in the businesses and endeavors here, simultaneously enhancing the education, skills and talents of our citizens.
A segment of this upcoming Monday night's Veterans Challenge community event will be utilized for community input to the Kinston Champion proposal - The Veterans Cay Celebration was so enjoyable we decided to continue the covered-dish idea. Whether you are a leader in the community yet or not, please feel encouraged to let others know these plans and attend Monday's Veterans Challenge Community Christmas covered dish celebration with a covered dish or 2-liter beverage at 7 p.m. at the former Expressions/Brody's building of Vernon Park Mall.
There will be entertainment by Bobby Merritt of LCC, presentation of colors by Kinston High's JROTC, acknowledgements, prizes and community input. Please get involved and let's start 2013 off with increased community participation!
Debby Guthrie is the director of Veterans Challenge of Kinston. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions of the guest column are not necessarily those of The Free press.
You can help our community and become a Kinston Champion
Debby Guthrie, guest columnist
Birthdays come and go, but what makes one more significant - the memories, the gifts, the love, the people, the impact? We may make birthday resolutions, but it's always the action that counts.
Now with voting decisions behind us and the holidays before us, we have Kinston's 250th birthday to deliberate, if we so choose. Here is a gift idea that was shared at the October Veterans Challenge Community Meeting. Throughout the auditorium, the idea was voted on and approved unanimously.
A gift the citizens of of this city could give that would have lasting effect, that could mean historic memories, encourage loving our people and make a significant impact, would be to have Kinston residents (and anyone else who would like) become a Kinston Champion member and make a $3 per month allowance designated for a specific purpose and plan. It would not be a tax as this can be included as an annual tax deduction, would be optional and could be discontinued at the gift-giver's discretion.
City of Kinston utility customers (businesses, churches, organizations and residents) could have the $3 fee included with their bil. Others could pay the nonprofit donation separately. Support could be made now, and the actual gift be given starting in January. The Kinston Champion member would be entitled to voting rights as to how the monies would be spent within the parameters of the plan.
Some additional details:
1. A city designated amount could cover cost of collecting this gift
2. A percentage would go toward paying past city electric so eventually, City of Kinston utilities can decrease
3. A percentage of number of Kinston Champion Members (regardless of needy or wealthy) will be drawn monthly for $100 paid toward their utilities, or a $100 shopping gift card to the Kinston business of their choice. For example: if half of the approximately 11,800 City of Kinston utility customers become Kinston Champion Members, then 40 $100 gift drawings could be made each month
4. Seasonal contests with $1,000 top prizes can be drawn for those with "attractive spring yards," "enjoyable Christmas dispalays," etc.
5. Monthly community contests can be scheduled for the year for any and all to take part in, with age and other categories, and a top $1,000 prize to work toward
- special sprinting, football passes, basketball hoops or, dancing, swimming, hula hoop, etc. People can come join us from far and near, and enjoy Kinston's community spirit; whether a toddler, military general or sprite senior diva, fun can be had by all. Non-profit vendors can offer fun and delicious selections at each monthly event and earn more community advantage
6. Seven-minute quality DVD's, and a one-page flyer will be made of successful Kinstoninans for school, library and media use, as well as to sell copies to the public
7. An annual Kinston-Lenoir County kids album contest for all school-age children (Lenoir County residents) will be promoted and judged in May - all kids eligible to win ribbons and gift bags, large top prizes
8. An annual presentation with high-value gift, awarded to a law enforcement officer voted on by Kinston Champion members
9. Soldiers in Schools program - team of trained veterans mentor school-agers, individually seven minutes twice/weekly in separate class setting, seven-minute class motivational exercise daily, and 40 minutes Fridays (if approved)
10. Kinston Champion Bucks - after volunteers donate seven hours to designated Kinston aesthetic projects, they can begin earning Kinston bucks for themselves or others, toward special shopping, utilities, etc.
11. Seed money to assist with implementing the following projects, as grant money, foundations and corporate sponsors, etc. are also sought:
* Turning the former Expressions/Brody's building of Vernon Park Mall into a fantastic Veterans Pavilion - where active military, reservists, Kinston veterans and American veterans from anywhere can become members, for a $7 per month membership fee, use the extensive vast facilities, labs, billiards, games, services, come to all the events free, enjoy a full calendar of activities, cookouts, celebrity appearances - and simply hang out with other veterans and their guests
* "Teens for Troops and Troops for Teens" - a project where teens help promote the veteran pavilion concept. Veterans enjoy their new pavilion while simultaneously assisting the teens with setting up the former Rose's building into a teen pavilion, (a lot of muscle work needed as teens, family members and veterans work together) for a wonderful place for teens with a wholesome setting and full calendar of events and activities. Free membership for all teens that are enrolled in any Lenoir County schools
* Many other projects to web out in Vernon Park Mall that entails various former store sites for seniors, toddlers, kids, and adults and including a "Kinston's Got Talent" show place
*Work toward turning the vacant car lot on Hwy 70 adjacent to Wal-Mart into an extraordinary Veterans Museum- paint ball behind, and sunken sub and water activities next to it
*The vacant car lot on the opposite side of Hwy 70 into an "extreme park" with skateboarding, motor-cross, four-wheel courses etc....and the list goes on.
With Kinston's wonderful parks, the Woodmen of the World Center, the new veteran's home, the new crossfit training facility, the upcoming museums and so many wonderful projects underway, adding the Kinston Champion Members projects will most certainly encourage positive community support, and bring others to our fair city, promoting the health and prosperity of veterans and the community.
Please show your support of having a Kinston Champion membership project as outlined, by emailing email@example.com listing the subject "Kinston Champion" and including your name, email address and comments or signing a support document at a Veterans Challenge Community Meeting (Nov. 12, or Dec. 10) or at the Veterans Challenge office, second door from DMV, or mailing to Veterans Challenge K-4 Vernon Park Mall 834 Hardee Rd. Kinston, NC 28504.
Thank you so very much, and may God bless you each an extra heap this holiday season - and happy birthday, Kinston!
Debby Guthrie is the director of Veterans Challenge in Kinston. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.
What Veterans Challenge is Specifically About:
We try to fill in the gap, whether it be by referrals, or direct assistance, for crisis needs or information, mental health assessments, home evictions, utility disruptions, job needs, spiritual guidance and ministry invitations, community involvement through fun activities and providing information...(We schedule appointments for qualifying veterans to get hearing aides, glasses, pensions (aide and assistance benefits), compensations or upgrades, access grants to do handicap improvements on their home (owned or rental), use VA benefits to buy, refinance, or build a home -(no down payment 100% guaranteed), use Patriot Express or other veteran loan products to get small business loans up to $500,000! (1st phases with no collateral!), use educational benefits, including VRAP for veterans age 35 - 60 for continuing education and technical training (pays $1,436/mo. for one year while unemployed veteran attends), access scholarship for veterans and war dependents, encouraging veterans first employment (great incentives for employers), ...working toward many projects including a Military Memoirs book, and an effort to promote veteran authorship and publication, as well as promoting veteran inventions, talents, and many community enhancement projects.)
*If you are, (or know of), a veteran or widow of a war veteran 65 or older, with the need to get assisted living, reside in a nursing home, or need care in home, or you have these accommodations but the expense wipes you out and you could use a pension for spending money, (and you do not already receive a large percentage disability compensation) contact Veterans Challenge for a qualification referral and expert information and submission from a VA Accredited Counselor, by calling (252)933-3540 or emailing email@example.com.
Veterans Challenge encourages small business for any member of the community. Whether one is a veteran or not, the SBA (Small Business Administration) has express loans (one as new as June 2012) that requires a one-page application submission with small loans for anyone eighteen years of age or older for amounts in increments of $5,000 to $25,000. There is no collateral required and qualifying applicant may receive the check in two weeks. The payments are $71 /mo. for $5,000, and multiply that times the number borrowed for larger amounts, such as payments for a $20,000 loan would be 4 x $71 or $284. Each six months of timely payments may entitle borrower to upgrade the loan to next larger amount. The program also has a free credit repair program for those wanting to borrow for a small business loan but not yet credit worthy.
What you, your business, ministry, or organization can do to assist in the endeavors of veterans: Assist family members when veteran is deployed. Turn the deployed marine or soldier's name and address in to Veterans Challenge and/or other veteran organizations for care gift mailings, prayer, welcome -homes. All businesses offering a veteran discount or special, please contact Veterans Challenge to be added to the living list being promoted. Offer to volunteer through Veterans Challenge or other veteran organizations. Spread the word. Participate in the free Veterans Challenge Community Meetings. Keep the Veterans Crisis Line # handy for any veterans: 1-800-273-8255, and the "Coaching into Care" for veterans #1-888-823-7458. Offer your assistance to help with grant-writing and other projects. Bring or mail any of these items to a Veterans Challenge office (for address see "Contact Us" page) or community meeting: used postage stamps (just rip around the stamp - troops in VA hospitals rehabilitating from injuries have the option of using a special technique of removing the envelope backings for therapy and receive payment from coin and stamp collector companies), clip grocery and hygiene product coupons (can be used at overseas military bases up to 6 months after expiration - but preferable to send in prior to expiration to be sent to our troops overseas, pop tabs from cans, labels for education (Campbells soup, Scott toilet tissue...), Pennies for Purpose (Veterans Challenge has a large plastic jar that pocket change is gladly accepted with - of course larger monies, checks etc. can only help with the needs in the relief fund and supplies and projects (receipts delightfully written upon request), the clear, long plastic bags newspapers come in during inclement weather (for craft projects fund raising), bring a non-driving veteran to any veteran organization meeting, medical or other appointment, donate prizes for Veterans Challenge Community Meetings or Events (any new items from an ink pen, clothing, child's toy, plant, household items, jewelry, ...also restaurant, car wash or other gift certificate, gift cards...to larger items as high as you care to offer...).The more each individual does, the more every man, woman and child of the community benefits. As veterans prosper in their health and well-being, and integrate more of their skills and talents, so does the community prosper and have more opportunities for the betterment of all!
Thank you sincerely for any assistance you choose to take part in.
P.S. Any businesses that would like to assist with our advertising campaign (to promote veteran & community needs, events, suggestions,.. Call Veterans Challenge Director, Debby Guthrie at 252-933-3540 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the Extra Supportive Veterans, Other Persons of the Community, Businesses & Organizations we Greatly Appreciate (May God bless you and yours' extra!):
Evelyn Dove Coleman, Lansing Ray Allen, Terry Carmon, Jennifer Howard, Jim Bailey, Greg Hannibal, Juan Eric Cantu, NC Rural Economic Development Center, Inc., Guy Basden, NC Suicide Prevention Coordinator Gary Cunha, PathChoice Ministry, Clarence Fulton, Becky Crosier MSW, LMSW, Atty. Patrick Riley, National Guard Armory of Kinston, American Legion of Snow Hill, American Legion of Kinston, Dr. Donna Ramsey, Sweet Secrets Bakery, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston City Manager Tony Sears, Veterans of Foreign Wars of Kinston, VFW Auxilliary, NC Div. of Veteran Affairs, Viet Nam Veterans of America, Crystal Cheyenne, Linda Jones, Faye Clark, Jennifer Howard, Disabled American Veterans, Debra Oliver, Buddy Ritch, Reece Gardner, Jack Hibbs, Fred Hunneke, U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs, The Reece Gardner Hour, Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Dove, Ann Davis, Linda Murray, Cornelius Tindal, Vernon Park Mall, Michael Ingalls, Military Missions in Action, Daniele Brooks MAEd, MSW, LMSW, Greenville Mobile Unit & Vet Center, Debbie Chused, Coastal Marketing Connections, Atty. Kevin Houston, Kathryne Teach, Kinston's Free Press, Guy Skinner, John Hood, Commissioner Jackie Brown, Commissioner George W. Graham, U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones,Victor Kosinski, The Eight & Eighties Wounded Warrior Team, Warren Murphy, The Free Press of Kinston, TACC9, WELS Radio 102.9 FM & 1010 AM, Hampton Inn of Kinston, Morning Rotary, Woodmen of the World, Houston's Law Firm of Raleigh, Staple's, 109, H-Stadiem, The Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce, the former Barn Steakhouse, Family Dollar of Pink Hill, Lenoir County Parks & Recreation, Pride of Kinston, Adrian King, Kinston-Lenoir Public Library, Queen St. Methodist Church, Wayne Malone, Rick's Discount Tires, David Cole and the Senior Veterans Council, Raheem Carmon, Amani Emmett Musse, Curtis Drake, Charles & Essie Hanes, Lessette Kornegay, Brown's Sweet Treats, Ronnie Hines, Clay Johnson & Unity, Hakeem & Shyheem Carmon, Chris Vines, Down East Today, Haynes Home Products, City of Kinston, Mount Olive Evening College, Queen Street Deli, ESR (Empowerment & Recovery Services, Inc.), Commanding Officer of Naval Health Research of San Diego, Theresa Williams Bethea, Howard Carter Funeral Home, Fairfield Park, First Pentecostal Holiness Church, Rick & Jane Vernon, Dr. Harold McMillion, Groundbreakers Ministries, Mark Schroeder, Wanda Harper, King's BBQ Hwy 70, EnterAction youth ministry dance team, Soul's Devotion & Praise Contemporary Worship Band, The GATE, Gerald Forest, Tand's/Bojangle's, IFIX NC (Computer, iphone and electronics sales and service), Rev.Bonnie Clark, Billy & Larry Elmore of Holy Innocence Episcopal Church of Moss Hill, Norma Brown Sutton, Bobby Merritt, Gabrielle O'Flanagan, CoreyCo Roofing Services, Inc., Charles Sharpe, ...
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
pg. 33 Sunday, October 7, 2012
Kinston can live up to romantic ideals I wonder how many of your readers know that long before couples used to meet on websites, there was something called, "Mail order catalog." My grandparents met that way. My grandmother, formerly Ruby Mae Tripp, was a school marm in a one-room schoolhouse between Kinston and Ayden. My granddaddy, (Samuel Thompson) a Texan, and soldier in the U.S. Calvary, fought with other of his Army comrades, and came back to the States with hopes of settling down. Letters between him and my grandma were not the instantaneous responses of today's courters, but nevertheless, the spark blossomed.
When on visits as a child, I sat at my granddaddy's side on their front porch in New Bern, and listened to his war stories, Texas tales, and experiences as a plumber at Cherry Point. There was another story I'd love to hear and I'd have him repeat. It was of his anticipation to meet my grandmother, and their meeting at the train depot in Kinston. Now mind you, they didn't have pics texted to them so they had very little idea what the other looked like, but essentially committed themselves to be wed.
He was wearing his cowboy boots and 10-gallon hat and said when he stepped out of the exit of the train and looked around, there were several young ladies peering at him, but one beautiful young lady edged toward him, with the prettiest long petticoats, and the most gorgeous big blue eyes he'd ever seen peer out from the brim of her bonnet. He had seen many people in various parts of the world and traveled many days and nights to meet this penpal he fell infatuated with through her words and responses. And now he was so thrilled that she exceeded his expectations.
Granddaddy's romantic stories of Kinston remained in my heart as I traveled and lived in various states and visited other countries. My dad was in the military, and duty stations and deployments had me in 11 different schools prior to high school. I often wondered about Kinston and what such a romantic place with such community spirit would be like and how it would compare with the other places I lived. It wasn't until I had three kids that I decided to move to Kinston.
My kids, Charity, Jeremiah and Merry Faith, grew up with Kinston coaches, preachers and teachers shaping their lives. I'm appreciative of the positive role-models that have impacted our lives, the people that make the difference. After 16 years here my family is invested.
Whether romantic ideals,or full of community spirit or not, many of us have so many things to do we find it difficult to gt them all accomplished, so to add another thing on our plate has to be something urgent or especially beneficial. So I take into account the many obligations and special interest endeavors Lenoir County residents are already absorbed with when I implore your readers to please attend tomorrow evenig's (Monday, Oct. 8) Veterans Challenge Community Meeting at The Gate auditorium (corner of McLewean and Gordon Streets) from 7 - 9 p.m. I assure you that you will be appreciated and you are needed to make a difference. Debby Hilterbrand Guthrie Kinston
Please attend Monday night, October 8th, from 7 to 9:00, at the GATE auditorium, (corner of McLewean & Gordon-near post office-across from American Legion Lodge) the Veterans Challenge Community Meeting for military,veterans and the public. Entertainment is by the dynamic EnterAction youth dance team ministry. The Greene Central ROTC is scheduled to present colors. There will be exciting information that effects every man, woman and child (and especially teens) of Kinston and surrounding areas, refreshments, prizes, and challenges. You will be appreciated and are very much needed. email@example.com The Veterans Challenge Office is located at: Vernon Park Mall (near food court, 2nd from DMV) Our motto: Promoting the health & prosperity of veterans & the community!"
pg. 34 Sunday, September 9, 2012
Veterans Hurting and need your help
by SSG Charity Hilterbrand Smith, OIF Army veteran
I wonder if your readers know that war is within our borders, that more lives of our trained armed forces are taken by mental health symptoms of war than by combat, that every eight minutes, an American veteran dies of suicide. Eight percent of Americans are military veterans, yet one out of five suicides in this nation is veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports approximately 6,000 veteran suicides annually and that July 2012 was the highest recorded occurrence of veteran suicides (Army and Marine).
According to the Bureau of Statistics, there are more than 140,000 veterans (median age 45) held in state and federal prisons and half had reported mental health problems. More than a third of veterans in state prisons had maximum sentences of at least 20 years, life or death. Veterans had shorter criminal histories than non-veterans in state prisons but had longer average sentences than non-veterans regardles of the offense type.
Proper diagnosis, proper treatment of veterans (including educating the veteran's family members, clergy, emergency response personnel and public leaders about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other ailments) and proper compensation, might prevent many of these hardships, as well as high incidence among veterans of divorce, unemployment, foreclosure and homelessness.
In an online article of May 21, 2011, by Benjamin Krause in Militry.com, an audit by the VA Office of the Inspector General indicated 23 percent of veterans disability claims were incorrectly processed, and the VA is still improperly denying claims.
A New York Times article (Lizzette 11-17-08) entitled "New Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Crisis," indicated, "While few Americans are sheltered from the jolt of the recent economic crisis, the nation's newest veterans, particularly the wounded, are being hit especially hard. The triple whammy of injury, unemployment and waiting for disability claims to be processed has forced many veterans into foreclosure, or sent them teetering on its edge."
Estimates from the VA and other sources indicate between 300,000 to 840,000 vets are homeless at some time during the year (standdown.org/homeless.html). A 2006 study by the National Coalition for the Homeless found 142 violent crimes (including 20 fatal attacks) committed upon the homeless in the U.S. and approximately 7,000 female war veterans in the U.S. are homeless.
Veterans Challenge is an endeavor committed to networking with veteran organizations, community leaders, businesses and citizens to assist with these concerns as well as promote the accomplishments and impact of successful veterans, while utilizing their talents for the betterment of the community. Please encourage your readers to attend the Veterans Challenge Community Meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the former Expressions?Brody's building of Vernon Park Mall.
There will be gifts for the first 200 veterans (active military, reservists, discharged and retired) and many prize drawings for all in attendance. Please come one and all and take part in the exciting plans of "promoting the health and prosperity of veterans and th ecommunity!"
My tattoo: "Live a life of love as He loves us..." Ephesians 5:2
Staff Sgt. Charity Hilterbrand Smith Weaverville
by Debby Guthrie
If you are not a believer and you read this article, you may think I sound lou-lou. If you are a believer, I'd like you to pretend you and I are comfortably sitting, enjoying a beverage and engaging in a discussion. Perhaps respond to me with your part of the conversation, but for now, please be the kind listener I'm enjoying talking with.
Do you think the biblical stories and scriptures are for a history lesson or entertainment or do you believe they are to empower us today? Do you believe Lenoir County, less than a pin-dot on a map of the world, could be a place God would use to make a global impact? Does it sound too outrageous to even entertain? Why?
You and I could have been born anywhere on this planet, of any nationality, any faith and culture, any type of family, in a variety of conditions. But God permits us to be here right now, perhaps not with everything we've always dreamed of, but with more freedoms and advantages than such a majority of the world's population.
Whatever privilege we enjoy may put more responsibility on us to use our talents and blessings for the betterment of mankind. We may have more divine purpose than we give ourselves credit for.
Yes, an opinion is like something else; everyone has one, but night after night after night I'd struggle to sleep, with ideas swarming around me of how to substantially decrease crime, how to raise student scores and give kids more drive to excel, how to dramatically decrease racial discrimination, how to make our community more healthy and prosperous, how to reduce our utility bills and taxes, how to provide more employment opportunities and how to decrease the number of veteran suicides. Exact and specific strategies would come into play that I absolutely know would work if put into action.
But alas, who am I? I know so few people, and have no title of authority, renowned capabilities, no political influence or speaking affluence, no platform or way to make these strategies known, and am financially struggling to survive myself, so I have no monetary advantage.
Still, the concepts would come. And still, though experts strived hard to prevent it, more innocent people were being victimized by horrendous crimes, more kids were being overly frustrated in the test-score battle and their creativeness and self-esteem plummeting, more utility bills were too high to pay, more were being unemployed, more of our city homes being vacated, more of our veteran population suffering and dying and families devastated.
Finally, I got a sign - actually on a sign - and it grasped me so powerfully I had to pull over on the side of the road. It was a marquee at Neuse Baptist Church: "God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called."
WOW! None of us ever have an excuse not to do what we are called to do. I realized then and there it's not who I am that matters, but it's about "Whose I am." Whether the name is Jonah, Debby or your name, when God gives us promptings that we see are from Him because they line up with biblical principals, we need to utilize the verb form of faith and put our faith in action!
But how? I talked with my eldest adult child, Charity, about ideas for Veterans Challenge, and she agreed we should delve into it. I risked getting an office and attending trainings, and I began volunteer work assisting veterans.
For a long period of time, I put a large chunk of my life, day and late at night, into grant-writing. I would research and work so hard, only to get response after response back, "You were one of 7,000 applicants; please try again next year" or "We require three years of accomplishments to qualify your endeavor."
Some would indicate our ideals qualify as having significant community impact but need substantiation of monetary continuance, etc.
So do we give up? Perhaps at another time grants and foundations may assist us, but for now, how do we proceed?
Charity and I decided to appeal to the community and we held our first Veterans Challenge Community meeting in May. I was pleased that 40 people attended and our message was started. At our fourth monthly community meeting on Aug. 13, someone counting said the attendance was 240! I thanked the Lord for all the encouraging faces and the hope and excitement for potential they gave us.
Some people in our community however, are fault-finders and try to put anything down, criticize, slander and let satan use them to kill good works. But for our meetings to steadily grow in attendance so significantly, it indicates community interest to me. Too many businesses and ideas start and then don't get the momentum they need and fizzle out.
We need your support. Don't feel like this isn't about you or doesn't involve you. There is so much to do and something most anyone can be a part of. Please attend our events and invite your relatives and neighbors. If you can email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or use other social media outlets, please spread the invitations and information. To copy and paste from our website would be so helpful.
Our fifth Veterans Challenge Community Meeting is Monday Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. at the former Expressions/Brody's building at Vernon Park Mall. We have a BBQ chicken fund raiser scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14 all day from 11 a.m. (lunch to supper) at the food court in the mall, that we need volunteers (now) to get orders, sell tickets, buy tickets, and, on that Friday, to help deliver plates.
We need companies, schools, etc. to encourage their employees to purchase their lunch from our fund raiser. On the same evening of Sept. 14, we are also hosting a "Music for Unity" entertainment benefit from 7-11 p.m. at the former Expressions/Brody's building.
The program is free but donations are joyfully accepted. (We have openings for more music and dance talents- please call Veterans Challenge office at 252-522-4676, Ext. 2019.)
We are also seeking pledges and corporate sponsors to turn the expansive Expressions/Brody's building into a wonderful Veterans Pavilion.
There are so many ideas and strategies that coincide with so many wonderful programs already in place that affect every man, woman and child of this area. We can come in unity and make the needed difference and, by ripple effect, set an example of what one community coming together can do.
Please pray about your part and check out our website at veteranschallenge.org, volunteer, attend the functions and watch what God will do if we will just believe (with even faith the size of a mustard seed.)
"...With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" - Matthew 19:26
Debby Guthrie is director of Veterans Challenge, Inc, in the Kinston Enterprise Center, Suite 306. Reach her at 252-933-3540 firstname.lastname@example.org
or veteranschallenge.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.
Do you believe in aspiring high? When kids say they can't do something, whine and start to throw in the towel, do you have some words of inspiration for them? "You can do most anything you set your mind to do; you work hard, persevere and stay determined." "Believe in your dreams; the sky is the limit..."
I was not talking with kids on June 11th, when at the Veterans Challenge community meeting I asked for the assembly's support in a very high aspiration. Some of you may pooh and say it's impossible, but these folks accepted the challenge and signed what may appear a lofty proposal. Signatures of veterans and other community leaders frame the proclamation, including such names as beloved Commissioner Jackie Brown and our elected Chairman of the Lenoir County Commissioners George W. Graham. I explained some of the projects we are working on ("that effect every man, woman and child of this community") that coincide so wonderfully with the tremendous endeavors that have already been happening.
Lenoir County Proclamation: We the people make this decree...Within the next twelve months our county will be substantially more veteran friendly, to the point that by July 4, 2013, we will declare our county, the nation's most military friendly! We have a specific strategy and plan to work hard, play hard, come in unity to make the needed difference and then erect the sign when the fireworks start!
The motto of Veterans Challenge is "Promoting the health and prosperity of veterans and the community." Some counties have a beach, lake, mountain, big university, (military base), amusement park, legislature building... Lenoir County has... a lot, but how do you describe this area? What prompts people to come and stay? If your kids bring someone home from the base or from their college, what would that guest, a young adult, see and do here on an odd weekend? How would they describe this area to someone else? What is it that would keep more of our kids in our county to raise their families? How can we make our county more healthy and prosperous?
What do veterans have to do with the prosperity of the rest of us? After I spoke at a Viet Nam Veterans of America meeting recently, one veteran kindly corrected me when I said there were 6,000 veterans in Lenoir County. He said that there were more than 7,000 even though many of them are not in the VA system.
Now do the math. Some veterans live in large households but let's say on the average each veteran has a spouse and two kids - that's 28,000, approximately half of our population!
When I was in kindergarten my teacher would read us books outside under an apple tree. One was about three soldiers (my daddy was a soldier, as were my granddaddy and uncles, and later my brothers, my late spouse and my eldest two children would be.) The soldiers were walking home from war, and were very tired and hungry. "In fact, they had eaten nothing for two days." When they came to a village and asked the people to spare some food for them, none had any food to give away. "They all had good reasons."
So the soldiers entertained the townspeople by building a fire and stirring water in a huge cooking pot. They started by adding smooth stones, and said it would be even better with some salt and pepper, which someone supplied, and indeed this stone soup would be fit for the king himself if we just had...
And for each item mentioned someone had a few carrots and someone else beef, barley, potatoes, cabbage. They ended up having people bring all types of food, even bread and cider and the whole town and the soldiers had a wonderful feast with merriment and dancing all night and even invited the soldiers to sleep in the best homes. And the next morning the village gathered to give the soldiers a send-off, and exclaimed, "Many thanks...we shall never go hungry, now that we know how to make soup from stones." (Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown)
Lenoir County is rich in history, has wonderful parks, a terrific recreation program, wonderful events, many fantastic people, wonderful churches, terrific veteran organizations, a new veterans home, Woodmen of the World Center- so much, yet so many people are struggling just to survive. I don't want to bang on the door of a business to ask for a donation and find a door shut because too many have already asked and they turn me down (like in the story, "They all had good reasons.")
I'd like to keep working hard assisting veterans and stir the broth and let the recipe be known so that the ingredients might be provided and all may reap the rewards. As I was stirring at the morning Rotary and mentioned a few of the desired projects, Linda Jones spoke up and said she'd be honored to offer the Grand Ballroom at the Hampton Inn in Kinston for the Veterans Ball! Wow! Michael Taylor said Williamson Photography would offer their services and the club agreed to share sponsoring that upcoming event! Boom-Boom-Boom!
Others offered prizes for our community meetings. Veteran organizations have been permitting speakers from Veterans Challenge to pass the word, and we've been "hooking up" veterans, veteran widows and specialists to utilize their benefits more readily, applying for and securing compensations, pensions, hearing aides, home improvement grants, educational benefits and small business loans!
"The good influence of godly citizens causes a city to prosper." (Proverbs 11:11) Veterans Challenge Inc. non-profit has been volunteer thus far. We stir the pot for all.
Debby Guthrie is founder and director of Veterans Challenge in Kinston. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.
We hope to see you again! Check back later for new updates to our website. There's much more to come!