South Bend Launches Vets’ Community Connections Program

Veterans living in South Bend now have another source for information.

Veterans Community Connections is a program meant to help veterans and their families living in South Bend find helpful information.

South Bend is one of the first cities in America to start the pilot project.

Veterans who are adjusting to civilian life in South Bend have another source for help.

“It can be overwhelming, it can be disorienting, and it makes a big difference if we have a network of volunteers, who go beyond just saying thank you for your service,” mayor Pete Buttigieg said.

This afternoon, Mayor Buttigieg partnered with volunteers to announce South Bend is one of the first places in the US to launch the Vets’ Community Connections.

“We’re a city that loves to punch above our weight,” Buttigieg said.

“But I also think we can do it better. We can find ways to assist people that other communities can’t,” South Bend airport executive director Mike Daigle said.

South Bend is the third city to spearhead the program, along with San Diego and Maricopa, Arizona. Organizers say it won’t replace mental health or job services.

“Where’s the best auto mechanic? Where can their kids go to play pee-wee football?” Vets’ Community Connections co-founder Doug Wilson said.

“Whether you’re looking for a dog park or a dentist, we’re not looking for experts on military affairs, we’re looking for experts on living in this community,” Buttigieg said.

The program is a simple concept. Vets can call the 311 number and speak with volunteers offering helpful info.

“We’re not a fundraising organization, we don’t transmit money. We basically are like stone soup. We bring the idea to communities and let the communities build it,” Wilson said.

“Some people view veterans as just having problems that need to be solved. I want to view veterans as people we’re competing over. People who could be contributing to our community if we recruit them to South Bend,” Buttigieg said.

Organizers are also asking help from business owners, though not necessarily places that are hiring. VCC wants to make connections with businesses willing to offer specials or discounts to vets.

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