For Demetrius Marrow, the most fulfilling part of working at Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center is knowing that he’s doing his part to keep the Center’s services free.
As the development and sustainability coordinator, Marrow handles fundraising for the public charity, selling potential donors on Mt. Carmel’s ability to fulfill its mission of providing veterans with housing assistance, job placement and suicide prevention, among other things.
“I’m not on the front end, I’m back on this end doing fundraising and getting those dollars that way to keep those programs free so we can continue making more job placements, prevent suicides...” he said. “All that is free, and that’s the fulfilling part to me.”
Marrow comes from a military family, and he’s been working with veterans all of his professional life. Previously he worked in higher education to help veterans navigate their education benefits, before starting at Mt. Carmel seven months ago.
Veterans can access the center’s programs through its website, with the three areas of focus being Health and Wellness; Military, Veteran, and Family Services; and Transition and Employment.
“Wars will end, but the battle can last a lifetime,” the center’s website reads. Mt. Carmel is looking for volunteers, he said, and more information is on Mt. Carmel’s website under the “Support” section.
Marrow said working at Mt. Carmel is fulfilling “every day.” He urged anyone looking for that same sense of fulfillment to get in touch with the center. “It gives you that sense of giving back, being a part of a community,” he said.
What made you want to get involved in this sort of work?
Fulfillment. It’s less bureaucratic. And we are quite literally making a difference in over 70,000 lives.
That’s how many you’ve served?
Since we’ve been open. We’ve been open for going on six years now. It’s important that our services are free. We help transition military people out of the military to civilian jobs, help with behavioral health, suicide prevention. We help with family services, help you get utilities paid, things like that. And that’s fulfilling, that we’re actually helping people.
What’s the most important service that Mt. Carmel offers, the one that makes the most difference in veteran’s lives?
Behavioral health. ... We have counseling — you can come do individual counseling; you can come do group counseling, couples counseling, family counseling. But most importantly, probably suicide prevention. Our veterans coming back from overseas, they go through a lot of stuff, they see a lot of stuff, and it’s hard for them to integrate back into this life. And so we do see a lot of clients for suicide prevention. We actually just got [a program called Next Chapter]. It’s a veteran suicide prevention pilot program [funded by] a three-year grant. It’s established a full-time position here, and it’s established a hotline for people to call if they have mental health concerns, things like that.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced doing this work?
Fundraising is always going to have its challenges. You’re going out and you’re supposed to sell the story of Mt. Carmel and hope it turns into dollars. So I’ve got to make sure that I know the story, make sure I convey it with as much passion as my executive director does, as my other team members do. Cultivating genuine donors is actually pretty challenging. There’s an art to it.
What works best to sell Mt. Carmel’s mission when you’re speaking with potential donors?
Definitely the stats. So when I am able to explain to them, ‘Hey, these are the dollars we’ve already received and this is what we did with those dollars.’ A lot of people want to know that they’re just not dumping money into a place and it’s going into people’s salaries or people’s pockets. Stats really help me sell the story.
What examples you relay to donors, about what Mt. Carmel’s been able to do with the money?
I always bring up the overall clients that we’ve seen — over 70,000 clients. I let them know about each of our departments. Our Transition and Employment [team has] placed over 3,200 people in positions with the average [hourly rate] of $30.50, I believe. ... And our Military and Veteran Family Services Office — that one, I believe we see just under $1 million in grants for that area to help with rental assistance, finding homes for veterans, replacing items that might have been lost in a fire or something. It’s really anything that we can do for the veteran, their family — and that includes children.
If funding weren’t an issue, into what areas would you expand?
So I would say we’ve solidified our programming. We have three major departments: Family Services, Behavioral Health, Transition and Employment. So if we were to secure a large amount of funding or things like that, we would probably physically expand. We’re already in Pueblo. My executive director has talked about expanding to Aurora. And the mission here — what we do is needed everywhere. So the goal would be [to expand] nationwide.
Has working in this field changed the way you look at veteran’s issues, or service in general?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s changed my perspective a lot. My dad served, my brother serves, so I understand mental health challenges in the military veteran population. I see how hard it is to reintegrate into civilian life after coming out of the service. So it’s mainly just solidified what I already knew. And now I’ve been in the game to help.
What’s an issue affecting veterans that people may not be as familiar with — that you think there should be more awareness of?
I really think it’s a common misconception about the military and salaries, I guess, — funding for veterans and military families. They’re not rich. And when they do retire, get out of the service, it’s not a lot of money that they receive. So yeah, you will see them in our food distribution lines. You’ll see them coming to our food pantries. And that’s OK, they’re people too. [People don’t understand] not everybody has a lot of money in the military — they don’t pay a lot. So when a veteran says they need help, people usually turn a blind eye.