Tag Archives: Veterans

THRIVE-ing in 2021

Is one of your goals for 2021 to budget or to save money? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s THRIVE team is launching an online Zoom financial education class focusing on budgeting and food. In this class we will discuss a wide range of tips and tricks on how to save money at the grocery store including: why creating a budget is important; how to easily work making a grocery list, checking sale ads and coupons to save money into your life; how to navigate grocery store apps; and how you can implement these cash saving tips in your life.

Check out some of the tips we have for saving money! Join our class and get the in depth knowledge by emailing JGaehring@eastersealshouston.org today.

  • Did you know that there are sale cycles on products?
  • Being aware of when and what goes on sale and combining coupons is the secret extreme couponers use
  • Did you know there’s a way to get a Sunday paper for only a $1.00?
  • Did you know there are now manufacture digital coupons or that some grocery stores will match their competitors pricing?
  • Did you know there are certain tricks you can combine to save the most money?
  • Did you know that there are websites that do all the work for you and recommend where to go for best sale and coupon combinations?

We will be going over how to use grocery store apps, sale ads and coupons to your advantage and how planning ahead can save you money. Learn the secrets and tips to save money on your grocery store trips. Please contact Jessika Gaehring at Jgaehring@eastersealshouston.org if you are interested in this class.

Our THRIVE Program aims to help Veterans, those with disabilities, and their caregivers learn how to budget, one-on-one financial coaching, home buyers education classes and help finding a job.

To learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston programs please contact

Homebuyers Education Classes & One-on-One Financial Coaching – Jenny Lopez-Martinez at JLopez@eastersealshouston.org

One-on-One Financial Coaching and Financial Classes – Jessika Gaehring at Jgaehring@eastersealshouston.org

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Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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Santa and Veterans Team Deliver for Christmas

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Wright and Tim Stroud from Easter Seals Greater Houston Veteran, Service Member, Military-Connected Family Program as well as a host of donors, one Houston Veteran slept in a REAL bed for the holidays. After connecting to the homeless Veteran, Dr. Wright reached out to others for help. As a frontline worker, Dr. Wright’s first action was to ensure the Veteran was in a safe place and had the right mental attitude. In the military, safe is an objective term. He was living in his car with his two dogs and since they are his emotional support animals, he would not go live in a shelter without them. 

This was all the information that Dr. Wright needed to know. She sprang into action and contacted her internal team and then the resources in their network. Since Easter Seals Greater Houston is funded under the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant program from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, they work with over 250 local and regional Veteran Service Organizations. 

Within a few days, the Veteran was living in a home, had food, furniture, clothes, dishes and all the comforts of home. The Veteran now works at a “no kill” animal shelter and is very thankful for the case management and care from our TVFA Network. When the supplies were delivered, the Veteran remarked through teary eyes that this was the nicest bed he has ever slept in. Rest well warrior. 

The Veteran, Tim, smiling with his own room with his two dogs

It is our honor to support a Veteran and to foster just a little bit more of hope. The Veteran, Tim Bergdoll, gave us permission to share his story and indicated that this was the best Christmas ever!

“Being out of my car, sleeping in a warm bed, and watching Pico and Buddy enjoy their warm shower truly was a blessing.” Thank you, for your swift action! Thank you, TVFA for making this a happy-ending!

“On Christmas Eve, I was at peace knowing that this little crew was taken care of” says Tim.

Did you know that Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a wide range of programs and resources for Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families? Learn more.

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Fitting Independence in the Budget

When Easter Seals Greater Houston Housing and Financial Coach Carmen Phillips first met “C”, she was transitioning out of homelessness and back into her first apartment.  Due to her disability and low wages, C has always needed a roommate in order to afford housing.  Unfortunately, depending on a roommate to fulfill their half of the obligations proved detrimental to C’s financial stability and left her homeless yet again.  After several months of homelessness, she eventually managed to find a new roommate she had met at the local shelter and they got a new apartment. Despite some of C’s objections about saving money, she and Carmen continued to work together to build up her savings account just in case she found herself in a similar position in the future.  Because she receives disability and works part-time, it was hard for her to rationalize why she needed so much money in her savings account, since her disability was guaranteed.  Well, fast-forward to COVID-19.  Unfortunately, C was laid off from her part-time job and the very same month, her disability benefits were suspended due to some type of error regarding her wages.  She was now stuck in an apartment lease with zero income.  Fortunately, she had her savings to fall back on until her disability benefits were re-instated.  Throughout the pandemic, with the help of her stimulus checks and her unemployment, C managed to pay her rent, pay off her credit cards and build her savings up to $17,000. 

However, shortly thereafter, C’s roommate left unexpectedly, leaving her stranded with a 2 bedroom apartment and bills to pay. Fortunately, she had her savings account and decided to make a drastic move.  She took a portion of her savings and purchased a 5th Wheel Travel Trailer in order to have a home of her own.  C now owns her own place, does not have to depend on a roommate to split housing costs, pays less renting her RV spot than her apartment and has drastically lowered her electric bill, all while retaining $5,000 in her savings account.  C hopes to eventually save up her cash and purchase a small lot in order to completely eliminate paying monthly rent to anyone.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s free resources for Financial Education, Homebuyer Education Services & Public Benefits. Our agency also has programs for Veterans, Service Members, and Military-Connected Families here.

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Celebrating Our Military Families and Their Successes

As Military Family Month, November, is coming to a close we continue to celebrate our families and their successes daily.   Having started our Veterans Services soon after we affiliated with Easter Seals in 2011 we began to understand the need and realized that our current programming would be off a huge asset and would translate easily. We initially started with service dogs and to date we have paired 25+ service dogs with veterans. Since then we have become the lead in VSO collaborative called Texas Veterans + Family Alliance serving thousands, we are especially proud of our counseling and mental health services open to not only Veterans and service members but also to family members. These are just a few of our most recent successes and we are truly honored to be in this space serving our military after they have served us. 

“F” is a female Veteran who has been in recovery for five years.  She has been attending AA meetings and has a sponsor she trusts and can turn to.  She has embraced the arts, especially dancing, as an escape.  Her fear is having a craving, because the people around her often talk about doing drugs and drinking.  She talked to her Easter Seals Greater Houston therapist about feeling exposed and vulnerable, so together they worked out plans for setting boundaries, and being mindful of her own feelings and of warning signs.  They also created a Crisis Response Plan, so that she has a plan of action for when a substance use crisis arises.

“H” is a Veteran who has worked all his life as a laborer, and that physical labor has caused degenerative spine disease.  Over the years as the pain worsened, he became addicted to meth.  H and his Easter Seals therapist are working together to navigate what he needs to do apply for disability and to stay clean.  Just recently, H discovered how much being in nature and working with nature helps him.  He has taken up rock collecting and rock polishing, and his meth use has decreased.

This story is about small steps.  Veteran “I” has misused alcohol for decades.  A week ago, he stopped for two days.  What caused the change?  He took a trip to see an old Marine friend, and saw in him a different way of living.  I told his Easter Seals therapist, “I work all day, drink all night, and then do it again the next day.  I realize now I don’t have to live this way.”

“D” is a female Veteran who has always drank and smoked.  Recently she got “the job”- the one she never felt like she’d ever get- and that one life change has increased her self-esteem tenfold.  D and her Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the job has made her feel so fulfilled, that she has realized she doesn’t need to drink and smoke anymore.

“L” is a Veteran and a single dad.  He has drank and smoked as long as he can remember, but after attending a retreat focused on mental health, he became motivated to find more purpose.  He and his Easter Seals therapist have been working to find ways for him to reconnect with his daughter.

“R” is a Veteran who has been in recovery for 23 years, and he faithfully meets with his Easter Seals therapist every two weeks.  R is knowledgeable about mental health, and he understands sobriety- most especially how fragile sobriety can be.  R has family with substance use issues, and they are living with his mother and not providing her with appropriate care.  R and his Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the stress weighs on him, and how he does not have to turn to substance.  R has taken up painting the interior of his house.  A task with a beginning and an end that he can control, and that he can see the result.

“M” is Veteran who drinks a lot.  As he said to his Easter Seals therapist, “If I’m not working, I’m drinking.”  M is participating in PE or Prolonged Exposure, a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings and situations.  PE has helped M deal with his PTSD, and he recently reported to his therapist that he is drinking only on weekends, and no longer throughout the evening after work each weekday.     

Congratulations to you all! Learn more and get involved!   

Services to Veterans, Military and their family members FY 2020 to date:

357 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving mental health supports.

38 Adult Veterans or family members received I&R supports.

93 Children of Veterans are receiving mental health supports.

7 Children of Veterans received I&R supports.

201 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving individual counseling.

166 Adult Veterans or family members reported substance use concerns.

40 Children of Veterans are receiving individual counseling.

5 Children of Veterans reported substance use concerns.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proudly serving current Service members, Veterans and their families in Harris and all surrounding counties.Our reach can extend to those throughout the state who are interested in tele-mental health services. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is not to duplicate services offered in the community, but rather be an easy point of entry for finding and connecting with needed resources. Learn more here and contact us at 346.330.3859 or Veterans@eastersealshouston.org to get plugged into Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Family Services.

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Pursuing Hope

The following was written by Dr. Cristy Gamez, the Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program.

I met a female Navy Veteran in 2017. At the time, she was a divorced mother of two and unemployed, living off her savings. She barely left the house given how unsafe she felt away from home. We started meeting weekly and she related an incident in the Navy that resulted in PTSD. We worked on her symptoms of PTSD using Prolonged Exposure and Accelerated Resolution Therapy, which was helpful with her depression. I won’t go into any more details about the therapy because I want to tell you about how life can change.

In the beginning, there were moments of hope that broke through the darkness of the depression and the ever-present paranoia and hypervigilance of PTSD. Eventually, the hope was real enough that she took steps to create the life she wanted. She filed and was awarded service-connection for PTSD. This meant she worried a little less about being homeless and losing her children. The service-connection opened up the chance to go to school and, hopefully, get a job. She spoke to vocational rehabilitation and found a science field she was interested in studying. She had wanted to study science since childhood. Her hope grew stronger. Maybe she could have the life she wanted. COVID hit and classes went on-line.  With the economic shutdown, she worried about whether there would be job opportunities after graduation.  As her savings depleted, her worry grew and hope sank. Her fear about the infringement on her rights because of the pandemic, worries about climate change, political unrest, and racial tension caused a resurgence of the paranoia, hypervigilance, insomnia, and isolation. She stayed engaged in therapy. This helped her identify things to do to help her be a little less stressed and address her fears. She started a garden and she became skilled at canning. Her self-sufficiency caused hope to resurface.

Sherry attended Easter Seals Greater Houston’s First Light Family Camp

Here we are at the end of September 2020 and things are so different. She started a job this week in her new career field, she is selling her house, and moving to a smaller city. Her dreams are coming true and she wants you to know yours can too.   

Dr. Cristy Gamez, Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program

The Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program is made possible by The 1687 Foundation,  BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, Employees Community Fund of Boeing Houston, Tom and Hetty Ball Foundation, The Christus Foundation, CVS Health, Houston Automobile Dealers Association, The Frees Foundation, The George Foundation, John O’Shea Foundation, The Strake Foundation, Texas Veterans Commission, WithMerci Foundation, and ESGH Youth Action Council. Special thanks for your generous support!

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Thanking and Being the Reinforcements for Heroes

In spite of a year that has already included a pandemic, racial unrest, economic devastation and the most named storms ever, we live in a place where neighbors help each other, scientists and medical professionals bring hope, and parents, houses of faith, businesses and charities prove their resilience.  Underneath it all – we still live in the safest and most prosperous country – all because of the sacrifices our military has made to protect us.  As Tropical Storm Eta hits our neighbors, I am reminded of all the individuals, companies, foundations, governmental entities and volunteers who have been there – and continue to be here – for us through some extraordinary times. 

Three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of the roughly 400,000 veterans across Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast are still impacted by the storm’s devastating effects. In response to the disaster, the Qatar Harvey Fund partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to deploy millions of dollars in grants to organizations serving veterans so they can rebuild, recover, and thrive after the hurricane. Those veterans now face new and urgent challenges of illness, unemployment, uncertainty, and isolation due to COVID-19. Over the past two years, this fund has supported Easter Seals Greater Houston’s mental health counseling, financial coaching and emergency financial assistance for veterans.  Many of those helped have truly begun to thrive.  This week we learned we will receive additional funding to support veterans who are still struggling with the impact of Hurricane Harvey and who have now been set back by 2020’s unprecedented events.  We are grateful to the Qatar Harvey Fund and the Bob Woodruff Foundation for the generous support, but mostly we are grateful that we will be able to support even more of the veterans who make our way of life possible.  This Veterans Day, let’s strive to be an American worth fighting for and please join me in celebrating all of you who generously make our services for military families possible. 

Sincerely,






Elise Hough
Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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Coping Strategy to Passion

Lou is a Veteran who has been working on reducing chronic stress in his life with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Service Member, Veteran and Military-Connected Families Program.  After making lots of progress in therapy, COVID-19 presented new challenges and removed some of his coping strategies.  He was no longer able to attend therapeutic horsemanship at Reigning Strength, or volunteer to keep himself meaningfully occupied.  Visits with neighbors and friends were suspended during the stay-at-home orders. 

During a telehealth session with his psychologist, Amy Harkins, Ph.D. from Easter Seals Greater Houston, Lou decided on a plan to stop worry by snapping a few photos with his old camera.  After one week, he reported that photography was as good for his state of mind as breathing exercises, but not as good as spending time with his favorite horse, Iceman.  With photography, he learned he can shut out other thoughts and he said “it calms me down.”  He found himself surprised that he could be so interested looking at a bug on a rose, something that he normally would not have noticed.  Photography reminds him that there are other things happening in the world besides his own concerns and some of those things are “pretty darn good.”  Lou is thinking about using photography as a bridge back to older hobbies of painting and drawing.  When asked what he sees when he looks out the window, he explained “I used to only see clouds.  Now I am seeing the sun poking through those clouds.”

Easter Seals Greater Houston proudly serves Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families with a wide variety of programs and resources. Learn more.

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Supporting Our Troops Here at Home

My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate. 

During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.

I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future. 

On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.

Thank you!

Bryan Cream

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to provide Service Members, Veterans and Military-Veterans with a wide variety of services including mental health, service dogs, financial coaching and more. Click here to support these crucial services.

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My Independence Day

Dear Easter Seals Greater Houston,

I want to express my feelings about training my service dog puppy, Just Bob, during these extreme conditions, and with my limited physical abilities. Without the Easter Seals Veterans Service Program and partner, My Service Dog, being available to provide safe environments, leadership, and guidance, I would have given up by now.

My life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined having this highly intelligent puppy in it. He is also a member of my family and they feel the same about him. We all work together to teach him, love him, and correct him. In just over a couple of months, Just Bob has enhanced my life, and the lives of my entire family. I honestly cannot believe how much he means to me and how I could not do without him.

In the beginning I was wondering how I could train Just Bob from a puppy, build a strong foundation and teach a full-blown service dog. It was only possible thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and My Service Dog’s constant communication, assistance, and guidance.My Independence Day

A perfect example of your team’s dedication and commitment is the photo attached to this email. There was ‘no way’ I was going to get into my wheelchair and let someone push me around a nature path where other people could see.  I am glad that she finally convinced me because it was a great training session, the weather was beautiful, and Just Bob learned how to maneuver with my wheelchair like never before. The outing did me good, taught both of us so much, and wore Just Bob out!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Blaine C.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veteran Service Dog Program.

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