News Details

Elks lending helping hand to area Veterans

By JOSEPH PAUL

Source: The Brazil Times
Published: Thursday 04 July, 2013

A local organization is starting a first-of-its-kind program in the region.

The Brazil Elks Lodge 762 was approved for a grant from the Elks National Organization to help fund pet adoptions from the Clay County Humane Shelter for local active duty military personnel and veterans through a program sponsors are calling Pets for Vets, said Ron Benefield, an Elks member who is heading the project.

"There is no other program like this that I'm aware of in Clay County or in this Wabash Valley," Benefield said, adding no other Elks Lodge in the country has been approved for a similar grant.

According to a media release, "All active duty military personnel and veterans will be provided a substantial reduction in the shelter's adoption fee" on July 13, from noon-5 p.m., at the Clay County Humane Shelter, 8280 N. County Road 125 W., Brazil.

Benefield said the normal adoption fee for a dog is $125. Through the program, the Elks Lodge will provide $100 to each active duty military individual or veteran who wishes to adopt an animal on a first come, first serve basis from July 13 until the grant money is depleted.

The reduced fees are $25 for dogs and $20 for cats, which include all shots and spaying/neutering procedures. According to the release, veterans participating in the program must have proof of current or former veteran status.

"We're always looking for opportunities to assist the community," Benefield said. "It basically works out that it's a $100 donation to the individual but it's really just a way of expressing to the veterans of Clay County and Brazil that we appreciate what they do and the Elks are kind of standing up for them."

Benefield said he came up with idea to help veterans who otherwise couldn't afford to adopt an animal or who may need a companion after transitioning back to civilian life.

Similar projects on a national scale, such as the non-profit Pets for Vets program which has regional chapters across the country, interview and pair veterans with a compatible animal, professionally train the animal and even prepare it to be comfortable with an owner in a wheelchair.

Dozens of such far-reaching, national projects have grown in years past due largely to an alarming rise in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide in veterans. As of 2010, veterans committed 20 percent of the more than 30 thousand suicides every year. On average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs webpage.

However, medical research has found companion animals can significantly improve mental and physical health in humans, according to the Pets for Vets webpage.

Although Brazil Elks Lodge project is much smaller in scope, less intricate and isn't directly aimed at helping those with PTSD, Benefield said he's sure it will have a positive effect on veterans, military personnel, the humane shelter and the community as a whole.

Furthermore, Benefield said the program's benefits will extend beyond veterans and military personnel. Since the humane shelter is short on funds and space, every animal adopted will be taken to a good home and will make room for another animal in need.

Additionally, the Elks Lodge will present four grants on July 15 to four local organizations already in place: The Brazil Fire Department, Serving on the Streets (S.O.S.), Habitat for Humanity and Shop with Cops.

For additional information or to get involved, call the Clay County Humane Shelter at 446-5126 or Benefield at 812-251-8662.

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