West Slope Veterans Coalition aims to honor, connect, support vets
It’s a Thursday morning, and about a dozen veterans are gathered in a conference room in the Glenwood Springs Branch Library.
There is plenty of coffee, a box of doughnuts, some jokes and robust discussion of topics ranging from current events to personal stories to veteran-specific issues.
Although the faces change from week to week, the gathering happens each Thursday, offering veterans and their families a friendly setting to talk and bond over a shared experience.
“It’s more of a melting pot,” Nate Deneault, a veteran, said Thursday, noting that the gatherings are attended by veterans of different ages, different wars and different experiences.
The meetings, which are sponsored by Alpine Bank, are an effort of the nonprofit Western Slope Veterans Coalition, which aims to support, honor and connect veterans in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties through programs and activities.
As Charlie Hopton, one of the founders and current president of the group’s small board of directors, explained, the coalition formed a couple of years ago when he and several friends were talking over coffee.
The consensus among the friends was veterans were not being taken care of, Hopton said. And many veterans were unaware of the services that were available.
“Groups were splintered. … In some cases there was overlap with two groups [with the same mission],” Hopton added.
The Western Slope Veterans Coalition was created to centralize those efforts, in turn increasing their ability to reach more veterans. The coalition works with the Garfield County veterans service officer — who assists veterans with services provided by the federal government — to help veterans.
The coalition has an emergency fund to assist veterans, who must go through a screening process, and their families with housing, utilities, food, mental health counseling, transportation and employment support, Hopton explained. More than 40 restaurants in the three counties back in June participated in the Dining Out For Veterans fundraiser, which raised money for the emergency fund.
Still, one of the most important functions of the coalition is information, and the weekly “coffee and doughnuts” meetings are a fantastic forum for that.
Say, for example, there is a veteran who is unable to walk or get around who needs to get to Grand Junction for a medical procedure, Hopton said. And another veteran will mention a transportation service that takes veterans to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Grand Junction.
Occasionally, the Western Slope Veterans Coalition will bring in an educational speaker.
Outside of that, “It is an opportunity for vets to loosen up and talk to other vets,” Hopton said.
The “coffee and doughnuts” gathering is from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, located at 815 Cooper Ave. The West Slope Veterans Coalition can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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