SALUTE TO MILITARY FAMILIES: Foundation fills in gaps for Vermont military in need

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff 

November 7th, 2013

When Vermont military members and their families are faced with financial stress that many people—including, perhaps, the United States military—would not have anticipated, the Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation is there to step in.

Rick Brehm, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, said the organization has helped active military members, military family members and veterans with just about everything—emergency oil payments, roof leaks, washed out driveways, rental assistance, daycare, funeral expenses.

“If you can think of it, we’ve supported it,” he said.

He’s seen cases where someone is deployed and receives new insurance, but then has to meet the deductible requirement all over again. Or, if a soldier is deploying for a year, there might be a gap between the last paycheck from his or her regular job and the first military paycheck—right when they are trying to set everything up for time away.

Since it began in 2005, the foundation has given out more than half a million dollars in grants, primarily emergency assistance.

“The same demands you’re seeing hit everybody, the financial impact is just amplified when one (family) member’s away,” Brehm said.

With the average unemployment rate among veterans a steep 30 percent, Brehm said it can be tough for returning personnel to adjust from a military paycheck to the open job market.

“It doesn’t take very long for that to start causing problems,” he said.

Although many of the board members and volunteers are retired Guard members, the organization is not officially associated with the Vermont National Guard—it is a private nonprofit—meaning it can act quickly when an urgent need arises, sometimes within hours.

The fund works to fill in the gaps between other agencies and tools.

“We do see a lot of requests that other agencies may not be able to act on,” he said. “They can’t support it, we can. We’re quick, we’re responsive.”

People don’t apply directly to the foundation for support. Vetted requests are brought from other organizations or contractors and evaluated by the board.

“We try to be good custodians of the money that is donated to us and entrusted to us,” Brehm said. “It’s a balance between being good stewards with donations we receive and certainly doing the right thing.”

Recipients also receive financial training to give them “a hand up not a hand out,” Brehm said.

Bob Wechsler, who works with Vermont service members under a Department of Defense contract, helps service members and their families manage their finances.

Wechsler said if a soldier, airman or spouse has a financial problem and needs to apply for help, an extensive application process is required. He works with them to find out how they got in that situation and “if the foundation helps them, how will they be able to help themselves down the road,” he said.

Wechsler said Vermont is fortunate to have the foundation, a service he said is not duplicated across the country.

“If someone is looking to make a donation to an organization that really serves the community, they can’t find anything closer in Vermont,” Wechsler said. “It’s locally controlled, it provides services to a really terrific group of people that have served their country.”

“The demands that we’re asking of military members have never been greater,” Brehm said.

For information or to donate, visit or call 338-3021.