New program aims to help struggling veterans

By Katie Demeria

WINCHESTER — When William Sutton, founder of Veterans of Valor, learned about the vast community of homeless veterans throughout the county, he decided to start a program that would work to provide those men and women with what they deserve.

The Veterans of Valor Foundation supports veterans for a nine- to 12-month period, during which they undergo vocational training and daily therapy.

“It’s meant to give back to the veterans, and help get them back into society,” Sutton said.

Sutton is a veteran himself — he served from June 2000 until March 2006. He started the work necessary to begin the foundation in June of 2013.

Initially operating with very little support, most of the work Sutton has accomplished so far has come from his own funds. The regional director for Patriot Outreach, a group devoted to helping veterans work through such issues as post-traumatic stress disorder, Sutton had experience working with veterans.

Through the foundation, veterans will have the opportunity to partake in apprenticeships that will teach them electrical, drywall and painting skills, Sutton said.

“I wanted them to do things that computers couldn’t replace,” he said.

Daily counseling will be part of the program, as well as weekly group counseling meetings. Veterans will also go through psychological testing upon starting the program.

The foundation will also work to provide career planning for the veterans.

“It’s going to be a transitional place for them,” Sutton said. “We’ll give them the tools to step out there. And this will be their foundation. If they need to take a step back, they’ll have us to lean on.”

Though his plans for the foundation are largely complete, a heating malfunction within the building has put things on hold for the time being.

Sutton said his tentative hope is to open by May 1.

“We’re still trying to get support,” he said.

The program has captured the attention of the states of both West Virginia and Delaware, he said, who are hoping to bring the program to their areas as well.

For now, though, Sutton said he is looking toward expansion in the Winchester area itself.

Right now, the building the veterans will be living in has eight bedrooms on the second floor. The downstairs will be used for schooling and counseling purposes.

“We’re hoping to expand in this building across the street eventually,” he said. “It has 14 bedrooms.”

The hope is veterans will reside within the 14-bedroom building while the original residence will be used solely for training and counseling.

The goal of the program is to provide veterans with the help they need to cope with life after service.

“We’re here to serve any veteran, no matter what age, no matter what gender,” Sutton said. “If they’re struggling, we’ll help.”

Veterans of Valor Foundation will hold a black tie fundraising event on March 29 at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester. Tickets are $100. Those interested in participating, or in donating to the foundation, can go to www.veteransofvalor.us.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com