Vets For Elders’ mission is to provide a supporting hand and added value to two critical segments of our society that are falling through the cracks – low income elders and military veterans and their spouses. We pair veterans, active duty military, military spouses, and healthcare advocates with the elderly in a mutually beneficial way to fill gaps in resources, specifically, those who cannot afford private duty companionship and healthcare advocacy. We call this “A New Mission.” Vets For Elders strives to reduce social isolation and hospitalizations for elders and provide meaningful job opportunities for veterans and their spouses.
The concept for Vets For Elders’ was conceived by Sarah Christ, a veteran with the California Army National Guard; and prior to that the National Guard, with much of that time spent on active duty because she’d joined right before 9/11. Sarah began working in the elder care industry, specifically non-medical homecare on the sales side of the business in 2012. She found herself quite frequently meeting with elders and/or their family members, but not being able to provide help to them because of their financial situation. Sarah coming from humble beginnings was not able to easily dismiss this. She found herself literally losing sleep over these elders racking her brain wondering what could be done to help them. She would wonder, “are they any less deserving of the help they need?” Over time, the more she encountered these situations, she realized it was not necessarily because these elders had been frivolously irresponsible with their money. Most of the time they had been hard working, productive members of society and the real issue was that the cost of care is incredibly expensive and unfortunately not covered by insurance. Again, these elders’ faces and situations filled her mind.
Then one day Sarah was hiking Iron Mountain in Poway, CA and a lightbulb went on. She realized that often lower enlisted military service members take second jobs. She realized one of the most underemployed demographics is military spouses. She realized transitioning service members need jobs and caregiving can be an ideal transition job as they work towards their intentionally selected career. In addition, she realized active service members, Veterans, and military spouses would make ideal companions to our elders because they understand mission larger than oneself. Furthermore, one of the biggest hurdles for a transitioning veteran is replacing a lost sense of purpose. What better way to fulfill this sense of purpose than by spending time with an elder that has laid the foundation for the lives we enjoy today?
She went around sharing her grand idea and everyone she spoke with loved it; however, she did not know anything about beginning a nonprofit and she still needed to work her fulltime job and care for her daughter. As time went on she begin speaking less and less of her idea until one evening at a networking event she serendipitously met Tina Buchanan. Sarah mentioned the concept of Vets For Elders and Tina was immediately on board. Sarah shared with Tina that she was about to let the idea die because she had no idea how to make it a reality. In that moment at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, Tina told Sarah that they were going to make Vets For Elders happen. They quickly began collaborating and building. Soon after their meeting, Sarah was notified that she was being deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Tina and Sarah quickly worked to establish a board of directors and while Sarah was in GTMO, Vets For Elders was awarded their 501(c)3. Since this time Vets For Elders has provided companionship for numerous elders throughout San Diego County, most of them being elder veterans. Vets For Elders has been able to provide necessary durable medical equipment and other items necessary on the aging continuum. In addition to Vets for Elders, our affiliated organization, Connect Our Elders, has been providing education, advocacy and navigation to elders, their families and advisors.
Vets For Elders has been hesitant to promote their mission on the large scale because Tina and Sarah both know from their elder care industry experience that the need is great amongst our low income elders for companionship and healthcare advocacy and unfortunately, being a relatively new nonprofit, their budget is very lean. As Vets For Elders focuses on growing its presence in Coronado given the demographics, we are hoping that you, the local Coronado community will assist us in raising money and in identifying the low income elders in Coronado in need of companionship, as well as healthcare advocacy so we may work together in caring for those that laid the foundation for the lives we live today. “A New Mission Has Begun.”