Hazel Blankenship (left) and Arlene Stepputat (right) co-host regular VetNet meetings which bring together agencies across the tri-counties region that support veterans.
Santa Barbara, Calif., September 12, 2016 — Representatives from more than 40 local agencies and nonprofits that support veterans in the tri-counties come together every other month for VetNet meetings, which provide an opportunity to network, share resources, collaborate and coordinate services and maximize their collective ability to serve those who have served our country.
The idea began in 2014 when Hazel Blankenship, Co-Founder of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF) and Arlene Stepputat, Manager of Volunteer Services at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC) saw a need for better coordination among organizations serving veterans.
“It became clear that we needed to connect groups in town that already had programs to help veterans rather than create something new,” said Blankenship. “We’re not seeking to raise revenue, but rather to build relationships.”
The two women met through a mutual contact who was familiar with VNHC’s Vet-to-Vet Volunteer Program and veteran pinning ceremonies, which are part of the “We Honor Veterans” program with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
“We noticed there was a gap in organizations working with vets and not knowing what the other groups were doing,” said Stepputat.
The first meeting was held in September 2014. That December, VetNet experienced its first true test. Officer C.J. Burleigh of the Santa Barbara Police Department referred a veteran family in crisis to VetNet. Within 24 hours of alerting the network via email, VetNet collectively provided the family with childcare, food, a refrigerator, money, toys for the children, gas cards, a Christmas tree and an apartment in Carpinteria, among other things.
Since then, Blankenship estimates that about 50 other veteran families have been helped directly through in-kind donations, financial aid or services. Additionally, many veterans have been referred to the Veterans Treatment Court with help from VetNet.
“VetNet is an opportunity for the community to see partnerships that cross public service and private sector segments of the community,” said Blankenship.
The VetNet steering committee includes the Alano Club of Santa Barbara, Employment Development Department of the State of California Workforce Resource Center, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Santa Barbara Police Department, and the UCSB Veterans Resource Center. PCVF provides lunch for the meetings and VNHC offers its community room as a meeting space.
VetNet communicates with attendees via email regarding upcoming meetings and emergency notices.
- To learn more about joining VetNet, email Arlene Stepputat at Arlene.Stepputat@vnhcsb.org.
- To make a donation to veteran families aided by VetNet, visit pcvf.org or call (805) 259-4394.
About Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation
Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is committed to honoring the men and women who have served in U.S. military efforts. PCVF does this by supporting veterans and active duty members in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as well as preserving military history and legacy. The Foundation is developing a Veterans Museum in downtown Santa Barbara as well as the “Wings of Honor” public art piece at the Santa Barbara Airport, both of which uphold Pierre Claeyssen’s vision that those who have served are “Never Forgotten.” PCVF is funded entirely by private donations. For more information, visit www.pcvf.org or call (805) 259-4394.