The Veterans & First Responders Board of SW WA was an outgrowth of the former Clark County Veterans Court Advisory Association Board which was formed as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit to assist Veterans within the Veterans Therapeutic Court started under the leadership of Judge Darvin J. Zimmerman.
The Board did wonderful things for the veterans within the court to include housing payments as needed; travel expenses to out of state treatment facilities; placement in well-paying jobs and even paying back union dues for veterans in the court to help them get back to work.
Christmas gatherings and even Easter Baskets were common incentives to keep up the morale of the veterans in the court. The Court was even evaluated to be called a “model court for the nation” with a model program of peer mentors and a non-profit board to assist them and the veterans with outside needs.
Other projects included the funding of the Veterans Garden on county property which over the years has provided tons of fruit and produce to worthy non-profits such as Wheels on Meal, Salvation Army, Veterans Assistance Center and both the Clark County and North County Food Banks.
Now for the less than stellar news and reason for adaptation to a new name and expanded cause. Thanks mainly in part to our legislature legalizing felony drug use, there is little incentive for any defendant to enter a court that requires abstinence from illegal drugs, nor are there active arrests for referrals. So, in short, the court went from a robust collegial group of 30 or so veterans to barely a handful.
Hence, the needs were to help more veterans within our community in general and honor first responders too, some who tragically gave their lives to protect us. Therefore, with a new name and mission the Veterans & First Responders Board of SW WA has adapted and did creative and outstanding things in our community for both veterans and First Responders.
With the assistance of an $80,000 grant from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and other generous donors in the community the Board was able to donate a $120,000 outdoor pavilion complete with fencing and landscaping to the 700 members of the VFW. Then again with community support and other donors the Board designed and gifted three lifetime granite benches to honor the most deserving in our community: Veterans and Gold Star Families and the two fallen officers, Sgt. Jeremy Brown, and Officer Donald Sahota.
Most recently the Board has taken on the activity of assisting and funding the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers by means of providing a traveling exhibit and authentic uniform for members of the Moses Williams NW Chapter so they can participate in historical presentations, community partnerships and parades.