Over the past decade, giving a hand up and not a handout has assisted more than 3,000 veterans in a Northern Arizona county.
"I just like helping people,” said Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council (JAVC) Executive Director/President Dorn Patrick Farrell. "I don’t think anybody should be held down because they don't know where the resources are."
Based in Kingman, Mohave County, Arizona, the registered 501(c)3 organization is run by veterans for veterans, with programs focusing on direct individual assistance, veteran resource fairs, veteran treatment courts and its most current project, Operation 6: Transitional Housing for homeless and at risk of homelessness veterans.
"We fill the gaps," Farrell said. "A lot of programs just provide (veterans) housing and then forget about them. We figure out what their barriers are and then we work on removing those barriers. Then we work on making sure they have all the benefits they’re entitled to ̶ if they can’t work, we’ll find them housing to make sure that they’re comfortable that way. But if they can work, we work on helping to find them a job. We're with them anywhere from a month to two years just depending on how many their needs are."
To help fill those gaps, JAVC works with a spectrum of federal, state and local agencies and organizations, local businesses, communities, individuals and volunteers to coordinate and provide veterans with the services they've earned.
"The organizations that we work with and our volunteers, the different Arizona Departments of Veteran Services, the Arizona Stand Down Alliance, Veterans Affairs ̶ we get grants from all over the place and that's what makes the difference," Farrell said. "We're working with everybody. It takes a village to do what we do, and I can't emphasize enough how everybody's part helps. There's nobody that volunteers or contributes that isn't needed."
One of JAVC's earliest projects opened its doors in 2014: a VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Kingman to bring primary care services to area veterans. Farrell also works with Continuum of Care and with HUD-VASH ̶ a joint U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs rent assistance and case management program ̶ to increase the number of vouchers made available to the county, demonstrating need by assisting with point in time surveys and through stand downs and veterans resource fairs.
"Mohave County has been a leader in my opinion in getting homeless veterans housing," Farrell said. "The HUD-VASH program in Kingman just put in 48 in the Veterans Village project. We have helped about 50 veterans get housing over 10 years, but we are now the recipient of a VA grant to get 25 more homeless veterans off the streets. We're taking a whack out of it. But there's a lot more homeless veterans out there."
JAVC also has a program specifically designed to meet the needs of female veterans.
"Right now, one out of nine veterans coming out of the service is female," Farrell said. "They’re more likely to be exposed to military sexual trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, with one out of every three experiencing that issue. They also often have children with them, and that's an issue as well; how do you deal with your own problems, MST or PTSD and have kids and probably divorced, can't find housing, can't find good work or reasonable daycare. It's not fun out there for the women. We're trying to do everything we can to help them."
JAVC also assists the resource team for Mohave County Veterans Courts, a problem-solving court with the objective of serving military veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or recurring disorders.
"There's probably over 200 veterans that have graduated from VTC in Kingman, Lake Havasu and Bullhead City," Farrell said. "They received the help they need rather than going to jail and having that on their records. Instead of being out there getting into trouble, they're working on getting jobs and returning value to the community and they're no longer considered second class citizens, let's put it that way. They're contributing members of the community."
JAVC's programs are driven by the needs of veterans, Farrell said.
"What we do comes from the veterans we talk to," Farrell said. "Listen to their stories, it'll tear your heart out. Their needs and their wants ̶ we looked around and we found where we could get most of them, that we could provide them or get them somewhere they could be referred to."
A U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, Farrell served on the flight deck as an avionics technician from 1968 to 1971 with the 14th Fighter Squadron on the USS John F. Kennedy.
"I signed up as soon as I could, as soon as I turned 18,” Farrell said. “My dad was in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Forces. I thought it was the honorable thing to do because we were at war. It was a great country – it still is no matter what anybody says."
Farrell's service taught him to, "lead, follow, or get out of the way," he said, traits that served him well in his post-military career with the U.S. Postal Service. After retiring from the postal service, Farrell and his wife Casey moved to Kingman. When he got bored with retirement, Farrell got a job working as a veterans' representative for Arizona Department of Economic Services.
"I saw that there were a lot of gaps for our veterans and there's a lot of information for available services that they just weren't aware of," Farrell said. "So when I got out of the DES, I joined the JAVC and we fill the gaps. There's a lot of gaps out there. We have built ourselves up from being a real small organization to when we get done with our building, we’ll be a multimillion-dollar organization."
The brainchild of two former marines – Jerry Ambrose and Gene Crego ̶ JAVC began in 2010 as the Kingman Veterans Council. Four months after the council was formed, Jerry Ambrose died and Crego requested the organization's name be changed to honor him.
Farrell was the first president elected and has been the only president of the JAVC following Ambrose's death. He has also served as president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #975, AZ State Vietnam Veterans of America vice president, Incarcerated Veterans program coordinator, chapter service officer for the Disabled American Veterans, and belongs to the VFW, American Legion and Elks. In 2015 he was inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame.
"I am nothing without all of the volunteers that we have and the organizations that we work with," Farrell said. "I’m just lucky in that I get to take the credit. I don’t do much.
"I would ask that people appreciate what our veterans have done. They don't ask much, just what they're entitled to and what they've earned. Saying 'thank you for your service' every once in a while is pretty cool and if they're Vietnam veterans, please say 'welcome home.'"