When the danger has passed and the homecoming celebration is complete, Washington military members often face enormous transitions coming home. These men and women return from long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan to find that they may need civilian career training, specialized medical care and financial support as they navigate how to establish routine and stability back home with their families.
In tackling these challenges, many of our state’s veterans don’t know where to turn for help. Recognizing this need, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) established the Veterans Innovations Program (VIP) to provide solutions to the unique challenges facing veterans and their families today. With services ranging from education and transportation assistance and career training to providing childcare and basic health care costs, VIP has changed the lives of more than 800 National Guard, Reserve and active service veterans and their families since 2006.
This year – through dedicated efforts led by the Veterans Legislative Coalition and the Washington Legislature, along with the support of Gov. Gregoire – Washington’s Lottery has created the Hometown Heroes Raffle to help fund the Veterans Innovations Program to continue supporting our brave Washington men and women. As a response to a lack of funding for the VIP through 2012, the annual raffle is now a dedicated funding source for the program.
In almost every community around our great state, there is a post 9/11 veteran who put his or her own family and personal plans on hold to protect us abroad. The Veterans Innovations Program aims to provide a bridge of support upon their return, providing grants to veterans in communities across Washington. Recipients of VIP grants include single parents, husbands, wives, former construction workers and new college students.
The Hometown Heroes Raffle is just one of the many ways we can serve those who served us so bravely and recognize their service and sacrifice. To build and strengthen the resolve around our state’s veterans, Washington’s Lottery has also created a Hometown Heroes Inspiration Wall on its Facebook page, enabling the public to share personal stories and experiences, either as a veteran or as someone who supports veterans. This year, the raffle has 24 top $50,000 prizes, 240 $250 prizes, and 3,000 $50 prizes with overall odds of 1 in 92.
While Lottery proceeds will continue to support higher education, early childhood programs and its other beneficiaries, the Hometown Heroes Raffle provides an incremental and unique opportunity for partnership across state agencies. We encourage everyone to support our veterans through the Hometown Heroes Raffle, which kicked off on Labor Day and will conclude on Veterans Day with a drawing for the winning tickets. You can purchase a Hometown Heroes Raffle ticket at any Lottery retailer.
Whether it’s a winning ticket or a safe home, we’ve got a lot to feel lucky about here in Washington, and we owe some of that gratitude to our veteran community.
Bill Hanson is director of Washington’s Lottery; John Lee is director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs; and state Sen. Steve Conway represents the 29th legislative district (South Tacoma)