There is freedom to sit and chat with other veterans, receive help and resources and make new friends.
The Gwinnett Coalition’s participation in a national veterans-focused initiative sponsored by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) was the catalyst for the Gwinnett Veterans Resource Center (GVRC). This initiative placed AmeriCorps VISTAs in Coalitions around the country to study veterans’ needs and develop community-based veteran-specific services. Jeri Diehl, the wife of a USMC Vietnam Veteran and the Commander of the Gwinnett County Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary Unit stepped in to serve as the first AmeriCorps VISTA/CADCA VetCorps Prevention Coordinator.
Diehl’s first VISTA assignment through the Gwinnett Coalition was to establish an advisory group called VetCorps. Diehl identified and cultivated relationships with businesses, faith-based organizations, non-profits, existing veteran service organizations, and individuals and invited them to participate. VetCorps meetings began in earnest in February 2013 with retired United States Army Colonel Doug Heckman serving as Chair. The community assessment that followed identified the need for a facility to coordinate activities for veterans, hence the vision for the Gwinnett Veterans Resource Center was born. The Gwinnett Coalition helped to successfully negotiate and secure in-kind office space for the GVRC in Lawrenceville.
At the end of her VISTA year in November 2013, Diehl was the natural fit to serve as the first volunteer Director of the GVRC. The GVRC began serving Gwinnett County veterans in February 2014. Diehl led the GVRC until March 2015. In 2015, former Gwinnett County DAV Chapter Commander and retired Army Staff Sergeant Danny Pagan became the volunteer GVRC Director. Volunteer leaders, the VetCorps, DAV members, and other community agencies continue to collaborate strongly to serve the needs of veterans in our community.