(Riverton, WY) – 2022 was a busy year for The Soldier’s House of Fremont County, which expanded its ability to meet Veterans’ needs by becoming a nonprofit and hiring Judy Crawford as its executive director.
The Soldier’s House founders, Charlie and Jennifer Wilson, have served Fremont County Veterans for about a decade, providing free, supportive, and confidential services.
“We’re really excited to have Judy onboard,” Jennifer said about having someone focused on The Soldier’s House full-time.
In becoming a nonprofit, they officially formulated a board, created by-laws, and can now apply for grants and get much-needed help, among other things.
Part of that help has come from a partnership with Central Wyoming College. They supported The Soldier’s House by providing them with a tech intern, Michael Lance. He is a computer science major helping them with their website, Google Works, workspace for nonprofits, and database.
In addition to the tech updates, they are currently focused on three main programs: wellness, housing, and food security.
Charlie, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, continues offering mental health counseling for veterans and their loved ones free of charge as part of their Wellness Outreach Program. He serves both the Lander and Riverton communities.
“It has been such a godsend to so many individuals,” Judy said about their mental health services. “That has been a major touch point for a lot of the folks who are now aligned with The Soldier’s House. They can’t say enough beneficial things about how much help he provided and getting those individuals through a rough spot or helping them to better manage some of their issues and working with them on coping skills.”
The wellness program also includes bodywork therapies, case management with the help of local VFWs and American Legions, and a Veteran-only Alcoholics Anonymous that meets every Tuesday at noon.
The Home Repairs and Retrofit Program, which started in 2020, is another focus of The Soldier’s House. The goal is to keep people in their existing homes, providing housing security by minimizing the risk of homelessness.
“It might mean replacing a window, skirting a trailer, or putting siding on a home that doesn’t have insulation,” she explained. “Or it could even mean improving adaptive access to a home for somebody who needs that level of adaptive support. A ramp or railings.”
Veterans submit an application for this program, and The Soldier’s House partners with volunteers in a Habitat for Humanity-style construction format.
Their third program is Food Security.
They have partnered with First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative Food from the Field Program to provide local Veterans with game meat.
“We’re super excited to be initiating this program this year, not only as a distribution center for Veterans of this game meat, but also to use it for providing community meals together,” Judy noted.
Jennifer nurtured the relationship between The Soldier’s House and Wyoming Hunger Initiative to support Fremont County Veterans. The Regional Coordinator of the Wyoming Hunger Initiative, Deanna Trumble, continues to advocate for The Soldier’s House.
“Deanna Trumble is amazing and has been with us and our biggest cheerleader the whole way,” Jennifer shared.
Jennifer also founded the annually-hosted Soldier’s House Thanksgiving dinner, which through the exhaustive work of volunteers and generous donors, served 140 meals to Veterans and their families in 2022.
Gambles of Lander helped fund The Soldier’s House Thanksgiving dinner and plan to donate appliances to help with the Food from the Field.
A Victory Garden, which has a concept of growing extra and sharing what you grow, is also on the horizon for The Soldier’s House. Their intention is to have Veterans grow vegetables for their personal use and then grow extra, so they can incorporate them into their group meals and contribute to places like the Care and Share Food Bank in Lander.
“This all feeds back into our mission because, through all of the hard work that Charlie and Jennifer have done, they’ve recognized that if you can mitigate isolation and build community, it helps to manage PTSD, prevent suicide, project hope, and promote resilience,” she said. “All of these elements are ultimately trying to develop community so people feel like there’s a commonplace, some common voices for coming together and never feeling like you’re alone or completely isolated.”
All of these services are free of charge to all Fremont County Veterans, no matter their era of service or discharge status.
Now that they are nonprofit, they can participate in local nonprofit fundraisers like the Lander Community Foundation’s Challenge for Charities, which they are doing this year. The LOR Foundation is also helping with their Food Security Program.
“It’s just been such a lovely outpouring of welcome and support,” Judy noted.
For those looking for a way to help, you can keep an eye on Lander Connected, a central hub for volunteer opportunities. You can also visit their website, Facebook page or email [email protected].