United Way Partners with The Walt Disney Company Foundation and Dr. Phillips Charities to Help Military Veterans


Jose Velazquez, an Army combat veteran, whose family overcame homelessness with help from United Way’s Veteran’s Assistance Program.

In honor of Veterans Day, Heart of Florida United Way recently announced that it has received generous funding from The Walt Disney Company Foundation and Dr. Phillips Charities to help local military veterans and families in need.

The news was shared during a Nov. 12 press conference stating that the Walt Disney Company Foundation had donated $367,500 and Dr. Phillips Charities had awarded a grant of $132,500. As a result, United Way estimates this $500,000 will provide help to an additional 135 veteran households – or 345 individuals – over the next year.

From left, Robert L. Mellen III, Dr. Phillips Charities; Robert H. (Bob) Brown, United Way; Nancy Gidusko, Walt Disney World; Jose Velazquez; and Retired Army Lt. General Jay Garner

Attending the event were representatives from Disney and Dr. Phillips Charities, as well as Jose Velazquez, a local Army combat veteran who shared a moving story of how his family overcame homelessness thanks to help from United Way.

Overcoming Homelessness
This time last year, Velazquez said he was facing an unbelivable crisis after he had lost his job and couldn’t find another. “One week before Christmas, my family and I became homeless and had to move into our van,” Velazquez said. “As a husband and father, it was the lowest point in my life. The help we received through United Way truly made all the difference in the world.”

The United Way Veteran’s Assistance Program, which serves veterans and surviving spouses who are unable to pay for food, rent, utilities and other necessities, also provides case management services to help families regain firm financial footing.

A similar program was previously funded with $238,650 from the Veterans Administration, which United Way administered on behalf of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida. To date, it has helped 95 veteran families – or 242 individuals – but 80 clients still remain on a wait list.

Additional Funding Needed
With need far outpacing resources, United Way President/CEO Robert H. (Bob) Brown thanked the new funding partners and urged other companies, foundations and individuals to follow their example.

“We know that military veterans and their families face many challenges as they transition back to civilian life,” said Brown. “While veterans represent just 9% of the overall population, they represent 17% of those who are homeless across our nation. Here in our own community, Heart of Florida United Way is grateful for the support of The Walt Disney Company Foundation and Dr. Phillips Charities and we hope that other community partners will step forward to support this important program.”

Dial 2-1-1 for Help or to Donate
Veterans or surviving spouses needing assistance can access help by simply dialing 2-1-1, United Way’s free, 24-hour information, referral and crisis helpline. 2-1-1 is also the number to call to make a donation.

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