Ohio University Combat Veterans Club officeholders Julio "Caesar" Vega (far left) and Zach Wood (far right) present a check to Heather Skinner (center, left) and Diane Stock (center, right).
When members of Ohio University’s Combat Veterans Club (OUCVC) aren’t working in their Baker University Center office, organizing group enrichment events or spending time in the Ping Recreation Center, they’re on the ground in the local community, sowing an honorable legacy for years to come.
The OUCVC is a student organization composed of military veterans committed to serving the local community and fellow veterans. One of the club’s latest community outreach efforts involved partnering with the Athens County Children Services’ School Outreach Program and local businesses to help ensure a successful start to the academic year for students in one local elementary school.
For the first time, the OUCVC – through a program dubbed “Veterans Guiding Children to a Successful New School Year” – participated in The Plains Elementary School’s annual Welcome Back Day. Held just prior to the start of the academic year, Welcome Back Day provides students and their families an opportunity to meet their new teachers and receive donated school supplies given to help students in a successful transition to the new year.
“We are always looking for help, so that we can help more,” Zach Wood, the club’s treasurer, said, noting that the OUCVC often reaches out to fellow Ohio University students and Athens community members to supplement the club’s outreach efforts. As a native of Athens, Wood said he understands the economic struggles that some community members face firsthand. “We just want to be able to help the community more.”
With more than 70 percent of its student population falling beneath the poverty level, The Plains Elementary is considered a high-poverty school. Some students at the school often don’t have access to basic school supplies, clothing and hygiene products, putting them at an academic disadvantage and affect their levels of self-esteem and confidence. The community efforts behind the school’s Welcome Back Day are designed to help alter that reality with local businesses providing students in need everything from backpacks to free haircuts and oral hygiene kits.
Members of the OUCVC raised money through the annual OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital Race for a Reason and a CrowdRise page that allowed private donations in support of the club’s mission to aid the school. With the support of private individuals, local businesses and veterans organizations, the club has raised more than $3,000 to date. During this year’s Welcome Back Day, the club’s officers presented a $2,500 check to the Athens County Children Services’ School Outreach Program to provide students at The Plains Elementary School with various items essential to the students’ academic success and well-being.
“[OUCVC members] are very attentive and generous, and I’d say compassionate,” said Diane Stock, the Athens County Children Services school outreach caseworker assigned to The Plains Elementary School.
According to Stock, members of the OUCVC reached out to her and Heather Skinner, principal of The Plains Elementary School, to express interest in helping the students at the school. Stock and Skinner assessed the needs of the student population and surrounding community members to best utilize OUCVC’s assistance, and the club set up a fund for Stock to use to help The Plains Elementary families outside of what Athens County Children Services typically provides.
“Everything we do to raise money is really about helping out all these families,” said Jordan Simon, president of the Combat Veterans Club.
Julio “Caesar” Vega, vice president of the club, added that the fundraising and giving back to the community is simply “good citizenship” and part of the club’s mission to always “do more” by the community and to give back locally.
The Ohio University Combat Veterans Club meets every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Copeland Hall 001. For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page.