KILLEEN — For 10 years, nonprofit organization Bring Everyone in the Zone’s trained facilitators have provided one-on-one peer support for service members, veterans, first responders and their families.
The group celebrated its 10th year by hosting a birthday bash at its administrative office located at 204 Priest Drive in Killeen.
Bring Everyone in the Zone is a member of the Texas Military Veteran Peer Network and has professionally trained facilitators who help those service members, veterans, first responders and their families who are suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and other traumatic events in their lives.
Executive director and training/resource manager Maureen Jouett said the group got its start in 2008 by three Vietnam veterans who were in the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System’s post-traumatic stress disorder inpatient facility in Waco, and Veterans Affairs psychologist Dr. Wayne Gregory.
“Those three Vietnam veterans, 45 years after Vietnam, were still messed up and they decided they didn’t want the current war (veterans) 45 years from now still suffering,” Jouett said. “They went before the state of Texas legislature and had the needs of returning veterans included in the state’s strategic plan in 2008.”
Jouett said this led to a contract with the state, which hired them to train facilitators and to conduct peer support one-on-one throughout the state and a contract with the local Central Counties Services to provide peer support coordination.
“The state hired us to train people all over the state because it works,” Jouett said. “There was a RAND study that said people that participate in peer support get better faster and stay better longer.”
Jouett said the traumatic events in a person’s life need not come from combat.
“Sometimes people are involved in a (vehicle) rollover accident and that’s really traumatic,” Jouett said. “Firefighters and police also have the same, similar issues because first responders are put in traumatic situations.”
The group also assists individuals with their physical needs too.
“We found out early on that we had a hard time taking care people’s psychological needs if their physiological needs are not met, so we started offering financial assistance,” Jouett said. “We have a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission to provide that financial assistance.”
Jouett said they receive no funding from the state and are run by a board of veteran volunteers. The group has two peer service coordinators whose salaries, offices and company vehicle are paid for from the contract with Central Counties Services. The financial assistance case worker is paid partially from the city of Killeen Community Development Block Grant and from the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veteran Assistance. She said many veteran organizations help the group and receive private donations.
Jouett said there are currently 150 peer groups across the state and the Central Texas-based group assisted at least 1,000 service members, veterans and families in the last year, all by volunteers.
Volunteers like 12-year-old Killeen resident Khariah Erhenede, whose been helping the organization during her summer school break.
“I think it’s awesome, I think it’s the best thing you could do,” Erhenede said. “I know a bunch of people who’ve come here and most of their bills are getting paid now, homeless people are getting homes, so I think this helps veterans a lot.”
A veteran helped by the services provided by Bring Everyone in the Zone is former U.S. Army soldier Lindsey Jones. She was an ammunition specialist with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade from 2010 to 2015 and deployed twice to Afghanistan.
Jones was dealing with personal problems that arose from a broken marriage, a loss in the family and the combat stresses of being deployed. She said she became a functioning alcoholic, which led to her being charged by the Army with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and deadly conduct, shortly before her service contract expired. Because she was close to leaving the service the charges were referred to federal court which led to her arrest. She eventually separated from the service with the charges pending in court and hired a lawyer. That’s when she heard about Bring Everyone in the Zone.
“I got my lawyer and he talked to me about the Veterans Court program,” Jones said.
The Veterans Court program helps combat veterans who have a clear link between their military service, mental health, traumatic brain injury or substance abuse problem, and their legal troubles. These veterans are directed to programs like the ones provided by Bring Everyone in the Zone and are given a court-ordered treatment plan. Successful completion of the treatment plan helps veterans avoid a criminal record or jail time.
“I knew I needed help, so I did it and graduated,” Jones said. “They start out with the treatment plan, have to go to the Veterans Affairs, get your medications, come to the screening and eventually get a job or go to school.”
Jones said they provide the help you need, but then help to get you back on your feet in the world.
“They helped me get a job and I’m about to graduate this December with my business degree, and I just started a new degree in substance abuse counseling,” Jones said.
Jones attributes the counseling services she received by the group for her life turnaround.
“They definitely helped me with a lot of issues, including trusting people and just functioning,” Jones said. “I have my confidence back.”
During the celebration, representatives from the Customs and Border Protection, Killeen Parks and Recreation, Harker Heights Vet Center, Help Heal Veterans, Killeen Fire and Police Departments, and many others set up booths to showcase community services provided to Central Texas and veterans or occupational opportunities.
Primerica Secure is a company that provides insurance, investment and security services and products was present during the celebration.
“What we do is we take families, bring them out of debt and make them financially secure,” said Ron Savage, a representative for Primerica Secure. “We do that through investments, insurance, home security plans and things like that.”
Another nonprofit organization at the celebration was Help Heal Veterans, which supplies hundreds of therapeutic craft kits to service members and veterans receiving medical care. Two craft kits can be checked out for free and upon proof of completion, two more kits can be checked out.
Patricia Alger, a craft care specialist with Help Heal Veterans, said the organization got its start in 1971.
“In 1971, Vietnam veterans were in their hospital beds and asked for something to do, so an individual went and got them some crafts for them and started a nonprofit,” Alger said.
The Central Texas Help Heal Veterans is located on 2508 S. 5th Street in Temple.
Delonte Pippins is a fire rescue officer with the Killeen Fire Department. He and other officers from the fire department were present to help build community relations and showcase their services.
“We came out to show the community our trucks and equipment, let them know what we do for them,” Pippins explained. “We respond to all fires, emergency calls for sick people and car accidents. We are also the paramedics.”
Pippins said the fire department was currently hiring for potential applicants.
According to a city release, applicant must be at least 18 years old but not have reached their 36th birthday by the date of hire. They must have a high school diploma or equivalent, must be able to read and write the English language and must meet the Civil Service requirements of the city.
“All applications must be in by Aug. 27 and testing will take place on Sept. 12,” Pippins said. “It’s a great career.”
For more information on Bring Everyone in the Zone, or to find out how you can volunteer or make donations, you can visit their website at www.bringeveryoneinthezone.org/.