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VANC: How a small non-profit helps military and veteran families

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The Veterans Association of North County (VANC) is a small non-profit organization based in North County, California.

Since 2007, the VANC has been serving as a one-stop resource center for all active-duty military, veterans, and their families and helps them with their benefits, transition, education, job hunting, and health and wellness.

As part of the last aspect (health and wellness) of its mission set, the VANC has been leading an impressive initiative for the past eight months. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the VANC has been distributing food and diapers to active duty and veteran families in the North County area since April.

On every first Friday of the month, the VANC is handing out food and diapers to active duty and veteran families. Up until October, they had handed out almost 17,000 meals and 180,000 diapers.

At every event, the VANC volunteers serve an average of between 400 and 500 families. It only takes nine minutes from when a car arrives at the event area to when it exits with the goods, and because these are sensitive times, there is no person to person contact throughout the ‘drive-thru.’

VANC has developed a highly efficient and effective protocol during which arriving families display their military or veteran IDs from their window and then open their trunks. Then, VANC volunteers place the goods in the car. On average, VANC can service six to seven families in just 20 minutes.

Picture from a drive thru (Veterans Association of North County).

During its Thanksgiving events, the VANC handed out an astounding 670 turkeys. The majority of the meals and Thanksgiving turkeys have gone to active-duty families, which represent from 80 to 90 percent of VANC’s audience.

It’s important to highlight that the VANC is a non-profit organization that relies on donations to continue its initiatives (you can contribute here). If you’re in the area and cannot afford to donate, the VANC is always looking for volunteers to help in its events.

“Our initiatives – our organization – wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Pure and simple,” said Lori Boody, the Director of the VANC, in an interview with Sandboxx News.

As far as the Christmas holidays, the VANC probably won’t be able to meet its usual target of seven to eight party events for active-duty families. For one, the Coronavirus restrictions don’t allow for large gatherings, and as a precaution military bases won’t permit VANC volunteers to hand out presents to the children of active-duty servicemembers.

Volunteers preparing for another event (Veterans Association of North County)

Then there is the unexpected popularity of the Thanksgiving events that have significantly depleted VANC’s treasury (each turkey came with a $20 price tag, totaling $13.400). But Boody said that there will be some sort of localized events to celebrate the holidays, just not on the same scale as previous years.

Charles Atkinson, VANC’s founder, current president, and veteran of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Air Force, launched the organization in an attempt to coordinate the efforts of multiple veteran support services.

In this initiative, the VANC has combined efforts with the American Legion Post 760.

This is a new American Legion post and was named after Douglas “The Frenchman” LeTourneau, a Special Forces operator who fought with the highly secretive Military Assistance Vietnam Command-Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) during the Vietnam War. This top-secret outfit brought together Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Force commandos and conducted cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, where American troops weren’t supposed to be.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.

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