Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry (ABCCM) announced on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, a major expansion of its Veteran Services of the Carolinas ministry with the launch of NCServes – Western, a coordinated network to provide support and information for veterans, active service members and their families in 12 Western North Carolina counties to more than 40 agencies and providers. The network launch was announced during an event at A-B Tech, which is one of ABCCM’s network partners.
The new network will connect veterans with services in areas including health care, housing, education, job training, and legal and financial counseling. NCServes – Western is funded by a two-year, $450,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.
The NCServes – Western network, which is part of the national AmericaServes network administered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, joins 12 AmericaServes networks across the US currently. It serves as a coordinated network of public, private and nonprofit organizations working together to provide veterans, service members and their families access to services in a timely and efficient manner. Through a technology platform, NCServes – Western and its partner network guides veterans, service members and their families to the most appropriate services and resources available.
The Western network is the fourth in the state of North Carolina and extends coverage from the coastal region in the eastern part of the state to the mountains in the west, making North Carolina the most widely covered state in the nation. The Western North Carolina coverage area consists of the following counties: Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania, and Yancey. There are 61,394 veterans in those counties, according to VA projections.
ABCCM’s Veterans Services of the Carolinas (VSC) will handle the day-to-day management of NCServes – Western. Since 2002 VSC has administered education and employment training with job placement, housing and homeless prevention programs for veterans in 26 Western North Carolina counties. ABCCM is already part of the Charlotte-based NCServes – Metrolina network. While in the past the VSC’s focus has been on homeless veterans, NCServes – Western refocuses these efforts on connecting, equipping and empowering any veteran with a variety of opportunities.
“ABCCM, comprised of hundreds of local congregations and thousands of volunteers serving more than 40,000 people each year, has a national reputation for service to the Asheville community and especially to veterans throughout WNC,” said IVMF Managing Director Jim McDonough. “As we continue to fill gaps for those underserved through enhanced coordination of care and extend this first-of-its kind community network across an entire state, having ‘boots-on-the-ground’ servant-leaders like Scott and his team was a must.”
“North Carolina is fortunate to have NCServes and especially ABCCM Executive Director Reverend Scott Rogers and the compassionate team at ABCCM’s Veterans Services of the Carolinas leading this local initiative,” said Ilario Pantano, IVMF senior director for programs and services. “I had the privilege to work with Scott for three years as the former director of veterans affairs for the state of North Carolina, and there is no one doing more for veterans anywhere in the country.”
“ABCCM is honored to serve veterans and military members and their families in Western North Carolina. We are thrilled to be working with visionary leaders such as retired General Jim McDonough and Ilario Pantano to extend this vital network across North Carolina,” Rogers said. “Our team, including VSC Director John Rakes and NCServes – Western Network Director Brandon Wilson, is building a strong network of providers to give our veterans and active service military families powerful tools to overcome barriers and achieve their goals in life.”
NCServes – Western is currently onboarding agencies and providers into the network through training and empowerment with technology tools.
Active duty, National Guard, Reserve Service members as well as veterans and their families who reside in the Western North Carolina region are eligible for support from the network. All individuals who have served in the military regardless of age, era, branch or discharge status are eligible for support from the coordination center. Although some services have limiting eligibility criteria, network care coordinators strive to find an appropriate local resource. NCServes-Western expects to eventually have participation from 40-50 providers.
With over 40,000 veteran organizations in the country offering medical, financial, employment, housing and other services, finding and accessing services has become the number one self-reported issue for veterans and their families, according to a recent Blue Star Families survey. IVMF’s AmericaServes’ networks solve this problem by bringing together a wide range of vetted, service providers. Veterans and their families work through the local NCServes coordination center to identify what they need, and the center matches them with service providers. Using HIPPA-compliant technology, each case is monitored to ensure people’s needs are met.
ABCCM’s other services for veterans include the Veterans Restoration Quarters for homeless male veterans and Steadfast House for homeless women, including female veterans, and their children. Both facilities are transitional housing programs that provide residents with basic necessities, access to the VA and case management support that leads to jobs in living-wage careers, stable housing and self-sufficiency.
Veterans, military members and families in need of assistance or more information should go to western.americaserves.org or call 1-855-WNC-VETS (1-855-962-8387).