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Veterans coping through COVID-19 with free therapeutic craft kits

Help Heal Veterans has sent 90,000 free kits since pandemic started.

SAN DIEGO — Many military veterans are feeling isolated and alone throughout COVID-19. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Rancho Penasquitos to learn more about a free program that's helping veterans get through the pandemic.  

"I loved serving the Navy, serving a cause that is bigger than yourself," said retired Captain Joe McClain. 

For 29 years, McClain was a Naval flight officer who served his country and in retirement his service continues. 

"I feel blessed that I can do something and work for like a lot of great non-profits where you can really make a difference in somebody's life," said McClain.

Joe is the CEO of Help Heal Veterans, a San Diego based non-profit than sends more a hundred different types of therapeutic craft kits to vets and active-duty military for free. We all know the courage and valor it takes to be in the United States Armed Forces but when a service member returns home injured they never stop being a hero. 

Since the pandemic started, requests for the kits have tripled.  A lot of the craft kits come from repurposed material. For instance the leather on the inside of the wallet kits was once used for the seats on a Southwest Airlines jet.  The leather on a seat cushion kit comes from La-Z-Boy.

90,000 kits have been mailed out in the past two months, many to VA Medical Centers. 

"They have folks who are isolated, who are depressed. Suicide prevention is a worry," said McClain who has seen the kits make a huge difference. "We get thank you letters from vets all of the time and one of the first letters I ever got was a vet saying thanks for what you provide. I don't think about suicide as much anymore and it floored me that something so small could make such a big difference." 

Since 1971, Help Heal Veterans has sent more than 31 million free kits to any veteran or active duty service member in need. 

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"You know, one thing about vets is that they will ask for help for anybody-but themselves - and I think there are many people suffering from what I call the invisible wounds of war," said McClain."We are really true believers."

Help Heal Veterans website gives this background: "For nearly 50 years, Help Heal Veterans has been supplying arts-and-crafts kits free of charge to veterans who are recovering from wounds, injuries, and long-term psychological effects of warfare. These kits, often referred to as medicine that doesn't come in a bottle, help veterans recover by stimulating their minds and improving fine motor skills. Today, millions of veterans are on lock-down, many suffering from TBIs, PTSD and substance abuse, and now experiencing isolation, boredom and anxiety. This makes Heal Vets craft kits more important than ever, and Heal Vets has gone into overdrive, shipping more than 90,000 craft kits to veterans since the beginning of the pandemic and creating a kit to help veterans make the masks they will need to stay healthy and safe."

Help Heal Veterans is funded by donations if you'd like to help go to https://www.healvets.org/

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