The coronavirus pandemic has been a hard slog for many nonprofit groups, which have found it harder to raise funds and recruit volunteers during the spread of this deadly infection.
But one organization that has remained in the field throughout the worst of the pandemic is Alamance County Veterans, or ALCOVETS – an alliance of civilians and former military personnel that devotes itself to helping vets and their families.
ALCOVETS began about five years ago as the brainchild of a few veterans and sympathetic civilians who were involved in staging Graham’s annual Veterans Day Parade. This core group includes area veterans Wayne Brewer and Jim Christopher, local business owner Chuck Talley, and Duane Flood, a lieutenant with Graham’s police department.
Talley, a civilian member of the organization, sees that ALCOVETS was a natural outgrowth of the momentum that’s generated each year by this highly successful parade.
“We were all on the veterans parade committee, and we wanted to do something after the event to help veterans,” he recalled when he and his colleagues recently assembled in Burlington to do yard work for a disabled veteran.
“We were trying to deplete the money we had from the parade,” Duane Flood added during the same volunteer cleanup. “But every time we did something, more money came in.”
Flood went on to recount a spate of projects that ALCOVETS has undertaken on behalf of the county’s former servicemen and women.
“We’ve built a ramp, we’ve paid power bills, we’ve done Christmas for families, and we’ve provided a handicapped-accessible van for one veteran,” he recalled.
Nor has the group let up in its efforts since the arrival of COVID-19 – the strain of coronavirus responsible for the ongoing pandemic. According to Army veteran Jim Christopher, the mission of ALCOVETS has proven more vital than ever amid the ravages of the pandemic.
“It’s all about helping vets, and right now, we have more veterans than ever coming to us with needs,” he explained. “COVID has slowed us down in some of the things we’ve been able to do with the restrictions on mass gatherings. But we’ve continued to do things.”
ALCOVETS certainly had no trouble getting boots on the ground on Saturday when nearly a dozen of its members gathered at the home of Michael Clark, a disabled Army veteran in Burlington. In less than four hours, the group’s members removed a storm-toppled tree that had languished in Clark’s backyard for months, and took care of some other deferred yard work that the ex-service member had been unable to do on his own.
Among those who took part in this operation was Cliff Carter, a Navy veteran who has been active in ALCOVETS for the past year or so. Although he’s not a founding member of the organization, Carter has become one of its most enthusiastic boosters since he became acquainted with ALCOVETS through the local veterans services office.
“As a Navy corpsman, my job had always been to take care of our service people and to take care of our veterans,” Carter elaborated during the cleanup at Clark’s home. “So, when the veterans office called ALCOVETS, they also called me.”
Even as Carter and his cohorts were finishing up with Clark’s yard, Christopher was already looking ahead to the group’s next big endeavor on behalf of an area veteran.
“We’re always looking for donations,” he said, “and right now, we have a very important need for a young veteran who hasn’t been out very long and needs a dependable vehicle to get him to work. He gets to work right now, but sometimes he’s having to walk.”
Anyone who to make a donation to ALCOVETS or volunteer for one of its upcoming missions can call the group at 336-YEA-VETS (932-8387). Visitors are also welcome to drop by the group’s HQ in the Paris Building at the corner of Court Square and West Elm Street in Graham.
Although ALCOVETS many not have the solutions to some of the biggest, most intractable challenges that former servicemen and women confront, the group’s contributions have meant a world of difference to the likes of Michael Clark – the beneficiary of Saturday’s cleanup.
“What they did was wonderful,” the disabled vet said as he ventured into his now immaculate front yard. “I can’t get around and do things like that anymore. So, I really appreciate it, and they did a wonderful job.”