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Veterans Outreach Center launches endowment effort-RBJ article-August 2, 2013

Rochester Business Journal, August 2, 2013
“Veterans Outreach Center launches endowment effort” By Nate Dougherty
Four Supporters of the non-profit organization pledge initial $100,000

‘The Veterans Outreach Center Inc. has struggled for years to keep expenses and revenues aligned in its annual budget, lacking an endowment to support the organization over the long term and smooth out dips in funding.
That is how the non-profit organization’s president and CEO, Gary Yaple, saw the situation after taking over in 2012. Yaple plans to change that, starting an endowment with a gift of $100,000 from some longtime supporters of the organization.
After taking over as its chief executive, one of the first things Yaple did was inquire about long-term sustainability plans, he said. He found there was nothing to protect the non-proft against cuts in funding or federal program changes.
“It was a foundation of 40 years, one year at a time,” he said. “This organization has been amazing in what it’s done for the community, providing incredible services to veterans free of charge, and our ability to survive that long is amazing too.”
Knowing it would not be able to last forever by going year to year, Yaple set a goal of building sustainability into the organization. The more he emphasized the idea, the more support it got from board members, he said.
Board member Don Reevem his wife, Diane, and supporters Jim and Cathy Rio pledged $100,000 to start the foundation.
Reeve, who served in the Army, said the VOC has been helping people learn new skills and find necessities such as food and shelter as they transition back into civilian life. He wanted to make sure that could continue.
“I wanted to do something that would mean these veterans who need help will be able to find it here for years to come,” said Reeve, now a retired executive of Wegmans Food Markets Inc.
Creating an endowment fund will promote long-term stability and ensure that when veterans need help they can find it, he said.
“Some Veterans come home, go back to work, settle into the family life they had left behind and the transition back to their former lives is smooth and easy, but that’s not true for every veteran or military family,” Reeve said.
Yaple hopes to raise the endowment to $5 million within the first five years and eventually to $10 million. That would allow the organization to cover the annual $500,000 budget gap now filled with community contributions, fundraising and grant applications.
The center has a budget of $3.1 million and 35 employees.
The timing is critical because of an influx of veterans who have returned home recently or will return in the next several years, Yaple said.
“With 10 to 11 years of war behind us, we have thousands and thousands of veterans needing services,” he said. “Having an endowment will allow us to take the changes that occur and navigate without impacting veterans.”
Some changes already have hurt the organization, he noted. The Department of Labor changed the allocation for some grant funding, causing VOC to lose “significant grants,” he said. This led to a reduction in some services.
The center has reached out to donors in other ways as well. The organization announced a campaign this month to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a goal of raising $1 for every veteran in the community–$70,000 in total. Donors can contribute through the organization’s website, by sending checks or even by texting the organization.
“Keeping our services barrier-free–that’s no cost, no denying service based on your military record–has been the reason we have been able to reach so many veterans throughout these years,” Yaple said in launching the campaign. “Rochester is time and again recognized as one of the nation’s best places for veterans to come home to, and we know why: because our neighbors welcome our veterans with open arms, our employers with jobs, and our colleges and universities with opportunity.”
The campaign is sponsored by Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Co., which has praised the benefit provided to the community from even small amounts of support to the center.
“Veterans Outreach Center is a smart investment, one that we know has paid off for tens of thousands of local veterans, who have earned our respect and deserve our support,” said George Hamlin IV, CNB chairman. “We stand behind Veterans Outreach Center and encourage everyone to make this investment, even if it’s just $1, in this program that doesn’t just promise but delivers life-changing services to our heroes.”‘ natdougherty@rbj.net / 585-546-8303