Sandra L Durbin
NEC, AMVETS Department California, AMVETS District 6
Membership: Currently, our membership stands at 8,673. During the 2015-2016 year, we actively recruited 236 new members, which included 57 life members. Our past 1st Vice, Enrique Rudino,, created a mentorship program. This will allow seasoned members time with new members, and help them to integrate into their new Post. He also has been in contact with veterans in the State Prison system. These veterans feel forgotten. California is committed to serving all eligible veterans, and will be working on starting posts for all honorably discharged incarcerated veterans, who wish to join our organization. Our recruitment opportunities have included Veterans conferences, job fairs, clover sales, community gatherings, and chance meetings of fellow veterans. We will continue to recruit new members, and to provide all the necessary incentives to retain new and existing members
I am proud to state that California is at 100% reporting. We are striving to make sure that all posts report their volunteer hours in a timely manner. The total value of reported volunteer hours, mileage, etc. is $2.3 million dollars and the amount spent on programs is approximately $400,000.00.
Suicide Awareness is one of the most important programs in our state. 22 a Day minimum, lost to suicide each day. We are raising funds and awareness to try to save our fellow veterans. We have our banners on display at job fairs, conventions, and community events. We need to get the word out to everyone.
Our JROTC, Chaired by Johnny Byrum, has had an amazing year. A total of 217 AMVETS Leadership Metals were handed out. $35,000.00 was spent on the program. We hosted 25 events,including Air Rifle competitions, drill competitions, physical fitness challenges, and Golden Bear National. Trophies and awards were given out at each event. We are preparing future leaders of America.
We are also very proud of our Welcome Home program, for previously homeless veterans, which is administered by our Foundation. After the veteran has completed his commitment to the V A, and has his/her housing from HUD, we deliver furniture, pots and pans, a new bed and bedding, a $100.00 voucher to our thrift stores for any necessary items, and a $25.00 gift card to a grocery store, for a meal on AMVETS. No veteran should be sleeping on the ground, after serving his/her country.
VAVS, Our members work very hard, visiting the sick, taking food to shut-ins, providing phone cards, providing assistance where-ever needed, and trying to make this world a better place for veterans.
Women Veterans Committee Our committee delivered gift bags filled with soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, socks, lotion, chocolate, cookies, and other goodies to every woman (both veterans and spouses of veterans), in our CalVet Veterans homes. This included Redding, Yountville, Fresno, Barstow, West Los Angeles, Lancaster, Ventura, and Chula Vista. The women ranged in age from about 50 years old to 101 years old. The gift bags were well received, and the women were happy to get a “just because” gift from AMVETS. We also provided backbacks, camp chairs, school supplies, beach towels, and snacks for the children attending Stand Down, for homeless veterans in San Diego. Our committee has also funded lunch for women veterans, and provided outreach to women veterans.
Welcome Home Program We are quickly approaching the 3000 mark, for previously homeless veterans that we have served since we started our program, in 2012. Total number of veterans served 2,831 Total# items delivered 36,577 Value of delivered items $1,433,695 If we had more funds, we would be able to assist more veterans
Thrift Stores We continue to operate our thrift stores, so we can complete our programs to help our fellow veterans, and provide furniture for our Welcome Home program. Career Centers We are currently opperating 3 centers in California. We provide free of charge, career training, clothing suitable for work, and employment assistance; for veterans, active duty, national guard, and reserve, plus spouses. VAVS We have been busy providing fun activities for our veterans. We sponsor BBQ, bingo, and archery, and a day center in Long Beach. We help with paperwork, and V A claims. We try to get our veterans to a better place.
Fund Raiser We are trying to send an 11th grader, Taryn Murphy, to Valley Forge. She won at the State Americanism 11th grade level. We will be cooking dinners and asking for donations to get enough momey to get her to Valley Forge. So far, we have raised 460.00 to help her on her way.
Stand Down There are 15 plus stand downs in the state of California. AMVETS tries to participate in most of them. At the San Diego stand down, our thrift stores have a tent, and give out clothing to approximately 1000 people, veterans and their families, over a 3 day period. It is hard work, but well worth it. Please go to the V A website for a list of future locations.
The Wall of Rememberance The wall will be traveling everywhere. Derek Hendershot, and JR Nichols have done an excellent job, of tranporting, setting up and taking down the wall. The wall represents all Americans killed in terroist attacks since 1983. It includes the names of both fallen members of the U S Military, and victims of terror attacks both domestic, and abroad. Please talk to one of them, if you would like to wall to come to your town or city.
Legislative: Our team, Lorraine Plass, Legislative Chair, and her committee, along with Pete Conaty, our Legislative Advocate, do an excellent job of taking care of our veterans. One of the the most positive bills to pass, was to allow veterans to have their veteran status on their California Driver’s license. And they are currently tracking 75 bills that pertain to veterans in California. We have over 2 millon veterans who reside in California. We take seriously the job of protecting veteran benefits. We are currently sponsoring a bill, AB 1596-Mathis/Salas. This bill would appropriate $3,000,000.00 in one time funding, to the California Department Of Veterans Affairs, for the purpose of making grants available to VSO’s like AMVETSthat perform outreach to veterans, for the purposeof assisting them with their federal benefits claim.
Communications/PRO: Our Department uses social media to get the word out about AMVETS. We maintain a website, and most of our Posts are on Facebook. Any event for AMVETS is sent out to our Posts and to other States. We provide information on upcoming events, job fairs, job opportunities, job announcements. To save money, we have teleconferences, instead of travel, and provide information to our DEC, Area Commanders, Commanders, and Posts via email. We provide an up to date website that reflects AMVETS in the best possible light. we invite the media to our events, and use every opportunity to promote our organization.
Other: I am proud to be an AMVETS member. I personally try to make a difference every day for veterans. I cook once a month for 50 to 60 people at our Veterans Club of La Mesa, I deliver food, and grocery shop for older veterans who can not get out. I have made multiple deliveries to Welcome Home recipients. I work veteran job fairs, and bring my 22 a Day banner to every event. I share responsiblity for the welfare of veterans of our club, with American Legion Post 282, and VFW Ship 1774. We are a cohesive group, and work well together. I assist both the VFW, and the American Legion AUX. at Santa at the Ship, where we buy toys for 180+ children, and provide some bikes(there is never enough for the children), and we feed about 500 people lunch that day, and we do it every year, at Christmas. So, my challenge to my fellow AMVETS, “to make a difference, one veteran at a time”, and start today.