Long Island veterans now have a one-stop shop for finding services aimed at making their lives easier.
The Long Island Veterans Initiative at Farmingdale has launched the Long Island Heroes Empowerment and Transitional Support-United Platform -- or LI Heats UP -- to offer military veterans a centralized assortment of help options via a website and a 24-hour managed blog. The initiative is based at Farmingdale State College.
"We want to incorporate all Long Island-based resources available to veterans in one place," said Meta Mereday, vice president of LIVI at Farmingdale and one of its co-founders.
The plan is to build an alliance between traditional and nontraditional resources to improve long-term living and working conditions for Long Island veterans. Organizers say this will empower veterans and their families to find those services.
"This is about providing a more streamlined support network for veterans on Long Island," said Eric Farina, a LIVI co-founder and director of Veterans Services at Farmingdale State College. "We want to bring it into the 21st century, use technology to let everyone know what everyone else does for vets. It's about collaboration."
The nonprofit service will offer assistance with housing, employment, medical and mental health and more. It will be funded through donations, but the organization has applied for various private, local, state and federal grants.
At the March 7 launch for the initiative on the Farmingdale campus, Mereday and Farina were joined by representatives from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office, veterans agencies from both Nassau and Suffolk, and other veteran-focused nonprofits.
Since the launch, Farina said the nonprofit has partnered with Catholic Charities, the Nassau Department of Labor, the Long Island Crisis Center and the Soldiers Project.
The veterans initiative "will not be offering the services," Farina said. "We're going to push the vets in the right direction for the services and then follow up until those needs are finally met."
Elizabeth Calvente, 23, president of the Veterans Club at Farmingdale State, said that before this initiative she was not aware of many of the organizations out there to help veterans.
"There are so many gaps especially when it comes to veterans sources," said Calvente, a Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf before being discharged following a back injury.
"There are a lot of organizations and people out there wanting to help and making an effort, but it's just so hard when you come home knowing where to find them," Calvente, a Hauppauge resident, said. "This will be a tremendous help. This is a connection for veterans to hear about these organizations."