Local veteran uses nonprofit to help other veterans

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An Army vet who served for 22 years is now giving back to her fellow veterans. 

Tanja Simmons, 60, served 22 years in the Army and is now CEO and president of the Lansing-based National Network Organization for Veterans Inc. Her mother, Esther L. McGear, is her vice president. 

The organization helps veterans in the Lansing area reestablish their lives when they return from active duty by providing affordable housing, helping them get PTSD counseling, reconnecting them with their families and providing other services.

McGear said she and her daughter love helping people through this organization. She said veterans often do not get enough help from the government and their “mission is to assist veterans so they can live a healthy and comfortable life.” 

In college, when Simmons was writing a research paper about homeless veterans in the U.S., she decided she had to do something to help. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2015 there were over 47,000 homeless veterans in the U.S.

Simmons said the numbers made her feel sad, so she wanted to find a way to help.

Simmons started the National Network Organization for Veterans Inc. around 2010 to help build homes for the homeless veterans. Donations and fundraising events help the organization get the money it needs to take on these projects. 

Home Depot and Lowes also partner with the organization by having workers donate their time and resources to build homes. 

The organization works with the Ingham County Land Bank to acquire some properties for the homes. 

Simmons said the organization is also closely connected with people who can give veterans mental health support when they return home. If the organization comes across a veteran who is suffering from PTSD, she helps them set up a consultation with a mental health professional.

The organization also helps teach veterans how to manage money, because the goal is to have the veteran eventually own the home they are placed in and continue their life on their own.

The organization also helps veterans who lost connection with their family while they were deployed. Simmons said they helped a veteran a few years ago whose family believed he was killed in action. He had no way of connecting with his family, so the organization found a way to get them back together.

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