By Christine Hockin-Boyd, Community Lifeline Center
[Community Lifeline Center is highlighting its veterans programs throughout the month of May. This is the fourth in a series of articles about Veterans support]
As we celebrate Memorial Day and – hopefully – remember our veterans and those in service around the world it’s most fitting to introduce one of the key members of the CLC Team: Megan Hickman.
Megan’s interest in non-profits and social work come from an interest in a career that is constantly changing and which puts her in touch with diverse populations. As she says, “In the past, I have worked with the homeless, HIV/AIDS patients, geriatrics, and with youth ages 12-18. My love for non-profits stems from the goal of the agency being to serve those in need. There is not a goal of becoming a billion dollar company, or to be on Forbes Magazine lists.”
While her official title at Community Lifeline Center is “Veterans Case Manager”, she’s really a guardian angel to the veterans and their families who face a variety of issues on their return to civilian life. She helps keep them in their homes, arranges transportation, medical or dental care, helps them get counseling, and coordinates among other service organizations.
As a result of the Veterans Commission grant Megan has been able to assist in the prevention of homelessness for nearly 4 families a month – families who would have been in a shelter or staying with family or friends. She’s been able to help nearly 200 veterans avoid job loss because of car repair or car payments, or assist with their utility bills so that they could use their income on their child’s unexpected doctor visit.
“Every client who comes through our doors has an impact on my life. The strength of the veterans, male and female, continues to amaze me. I am constantly hearing how people don’t understand where they are coming from, what they have been through or how they are feeling. After being released from duty, they are expected to jump into the real world and live their lives after being stripped of their identity in the military and being trained to not think for themselves.
“I work day to day with the veterans and their family members. I sit with them and hear the stories of what they have been through. I hear about their struggle and I see the shame on their faces. Fortunately, I get to assist them in changing their current situation and most leave with a smile on their face and want to give back to the agency. I work within the monthly budget to assist each client in every way possible, financially and in other ways. I require the clients to attend classes or counseling, according to their individual needs and in order to do a holistic approach instead of a band aid fix.
The most important thing to understand is that the Veterans Commission grant not only enables us to assist financially, but each area that we can assist in has an impact on every area of a person’s life. For example, a veteran may be struggling with PTSD and is unable to work to their ability because of their “invisible wound”. As a result, he or she may be switching jobs more often, which can impact their eligibility for health insurance. If a veteran came into CLC asking for assistance with rent because they changed jobs again and cannot find a paycheck, I would be able to see the impact his PTSD has had on all the other areas. I can then require the veteran get counseling in order to receive the rental assistance. If they attend counseling, they can begin to heal mental wounds. As those wounds heal, they can get back to work and qualify for health insurance for the family and avoid gaps in paychecks. The community is a better place when the veterans who reside in it are at their best mentally and physically”.
What’s remarkable is the level of service Megan is able to provide veterans in need. When asked what would surprise people about CLC, Megan says: “People would be surprised to learn that CLC is able to operate and function with such limited resources. I think it says a lot about where donations are going. The focus continues to be on the clients, not on the facility, not on the furniture in our office, and not on the things that ultimately don’t matter”.
Spoken like a true guardian angel!
Are you interested in helping veterans?
There are three actions you can take: 1] donate to CLC funding for our Veterans; 2] Employ veterans or their spouses; 3].Assist in creating awareness of the needs of Veterans and their families. Need to know more? Contact us at Community Lifeline Center, 972-542-0020 or at www.communitylifeline.org