Coast Hills

Veterans Program Provides Home Focused On Peer Support

by User Not Found
January 09, 2019

For many veterans, adjusting to civilian life after ending their service can be challenging. Feeling lost, isolated, undervalued, or overqualified is all too common and has a serious impact on mental health and well-being.

Inspired by the power of peer support, local Marine vet Steve Baird founded a grassroots nonprofit called Echo Group Band of Brothers dedicated to veterans helping veterans.

He started with a softball team for a group of 21 Santa Maria area vets who needed a little camaraderie.

That idea blossomed into a 6-team softball league, a bowling league, and a billiards club because the need in our community was so high.

And he didn’t stop there.

“Peer-to-peer therapy is single handedly the most effective therapy there is.” Steve explains, noting that isolation is notoriously deadly. The accountability that comes from peer support is a major key to success, and Echo Group incorporates mentoring and counseling groups into their programs — even providing a support group for spouses, a demographic often overlooked in crises.

Echo Group volunteers developed close bonds with the local VA, hospitals, law enforcement, and the judicial system and are on call for crisis intervention or referrals. When someone is in need, they are there to help no matter the circumstances.

Not only that, Echo Group opened a stability home in the summer of 2017 thanks to community support. The Casa Flores program is named in honor of Judge Rogelio Flores due to his legacy of support. He founded the Veteran’s Treatment Court of Santa Maria to provide a real path to recovery for those struggling with mental illness and addiction.

The converted Victorian house offers food and sanctuary to homeless and at-risk veterans — and with a recent renovation of the second floor completed, Casa Flores can now house up to 12 people at a time. The goal is to get people the services and resources they need to successfully reenter society.

Although the program is barely over a year old, they’ve already celebrated 8 success stories. 

On Friday November 30th, 2018,  Casa Flores opened its doors to community leaders and partners to celebrate the latest graduates of Veteran's Treatment Court. The Open House and backyard BBQ celebration included a special surprise — the presentation of a $1,000 donation from CoastHills.

This donation comes from the CoastHills “I’m All In” program — the employee-led charitable giving program — on behalf of Jami Morearty, Senior DMV Specialist. Jami was recently selected to choose an organization to receive a donation and helping vets was the first thing that came to mind since she comes from a family of service members. She had just learned about Casa Flores from her sister, who was inspired to volunteer with Echo after visiting the home for a school project. The choice to support them was easy.

Donations like Jami’s go a long way to support the program by helping cover rent when clients have gaps in funding, assisting with transportation costs, ensuring no one goes hungry, and covering fees and equipment costs to keep the sports programs accessible.

Feeling inspired to help? Echo is always in need of donations, and there's always room for more volunteers — even for something as simple as spending a little time in the cozy living room listening to the residents tell stories makes a huge difference. Connect with them on Facebook or email to take the next step. 

Similar topics: We Make A Difference, I'm All In

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