Veterans Support Each Other in Northern Oakland County

Veterans Support Each Other in Northern Oakland County

(Lara Mossa, Feb. 15, 2021)

HOLLY, MI – Veterans face solitude and financial challenges during this pandemic. And the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center is open to provide a wide range of services.

“There are a lot of medical issues,” said Joseph Mishler who is chairperson of the nonprofit organization. “Older veterans really have to be careful. A lot of us, our immune system is affected.”

It’s tough for young families, especially with the schools having been locked down and kids at home, he said, adding that Holly Schools planned to return to in-person learning last month.

Six years old and located in the Karl Richter Community Center on East Street, the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center provides employment help, connections to food, clothing and housing and legal services for veterans throughout the area. Service officers – accredited through the Veterans Administration and other veterans’ organizations – help vets handle formal claims for disabilities as well as provide discharge papers or other records. If veterans need help to be taken care of, they can receive assistance from the Veterans Administration as well.

“We also provide a place for veterans who just want to talk,” Mishler said. “We had a lot of that activity before Covid-19 … Covid-19 has put a lot of restrictions on things.”

Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the veterans’ group offers coffee, pop, water, and other refreshments for veterans who simply want to come in and socialize. Due to the Coronavirus, the center was closed for a few months last spring but has reopened. Service officers are available by appointment but also for walk-ins. The center maintains an extensive military library with more than 3,500 books and movies as well.

With more than 400 people involved, the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center on average helped 1,500 to 2,000 people a year, Mishler estimated, before the Coronavirus. Now, that number has dropped down to 30 or 40 a week. But Mishler stressed that the center is still open for people in need.

Among services that had to be suspended due to the Coronavirus were the center’s yoga program and monthly Vet to Vet dinners. In addition, the organization had to delay plans to hold computer classes for veterans. Mishler hopes the classes, funded by a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, will take place this summer, he said.

The group does not simply provide services for local veterans, but welcomes service members from all areas including Lapeer, southern Oakland County, Genesee County and Shiawassee County, among others.

“We are what you call no man’s land,” Mishler joked. “When it comes to the VA, very few veterans around here want to go to a city. They prefer to come here where it’s a whole different environment.”

Michael Patterson, 70, of Davisburg, who served in the U.S. Army as well as the Air Force, has been involved with the organization since it opened and has been a board member for three years. He received aid with his disability claims but also has enjoyed the opportunity to help others, he said.

“It’s given me some real insight on a lot of other problems veterans have and how we can come together as a community,” he said. “They inspired me to help veterans. They’re great. They’ve done a great job. They have good resources.”

Patterson is co-chair of the Hometown Heroes project, which honors local veterans. He hopes the Vet to Vet dinners, which also include informational presentations, will resume soon, he said. Before being suspended, the dinners attracted close to 40 people on the third Mondays of every month.

Mishler, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, oversees the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center along with Ray Pfenning, a Navy veteran. He said the organization is always looking for donations including military books.

For more information, go to the website www.havrc.org; the Facebook page HAVRCKRC or call Mishler at (810) 348-9960.

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