When Smith Chevrolet-Cadillac co-owner Lee Smith came home from serving in the military during the Vietnam era, he and many other soldiers did not receive a warm welcome. Along with his brother and fellow co-owner Larry Smith, the Vietnam veteran has made it his mission to ensure those returning from war today and those who have fought in the past have access to services they need through the Turlock Veterans Charitable Trust, raising funds for local veteran organizations.
“When a lot of these veterans come back from service, they fall through the cracks and aren’t getting the help they need,” said Smith. “This organization is all about helping the veterans.”
Since 2011, TVCT has donated $74,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, a national charity that offers services to wounded veterans of the military actions following Sept. 11, 2001. Veterans suffering from both mental health issues, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and physical injuries can receive help through the program.
“They don’t necessarily have to be veterans who are freshly coming home,” said Smith. “It could be a veteran who has had this problem for years, and now it’s rearing its ugly head.”
While TVCT has exclusively raised funds for Wounded Warriors since the trust was formed, this year the organization extended its generosity to locally-run veteran organizations, including Disabled American Veterans, Veteran’s Foundation of Stanislaus County, American Legion Post 88 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5059. At a May 9 paint night fundraiser for TVCT, the trust awarded representatives from each organization $4,000.
“It’s not so much about helping veterans in these organizations get back on their feet, but giving them job opportunities and make them productive members of society again,” said Smith. “These organizations help them with veteran-related issues, like helping those that are wounded or others that need assistance somehow.”
At fundraising events, veterans often share their story to encourage advocacy on their behalf, like William Hansen. The wounded warrior from Rockland told those at the paint night his story of becoming injured during his time in the service, and how the Wounded Warrior Project has helped him go from being a broken soldier to a thriving community member. Through fundraising events like the recent paint night and an annual Veterans Day weekend golf tournament, TVCT continues to promote support for local veterans, and community members have gone above and beyond to help the cause.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Smith. “There are a lot of patriots out there that do care about these troops that come home and need extra assistance.”
Through donations to TVCT and by volunteering, those involved with the trust help out at events without pay, donating their time to the cause.
“We have a lot of volunteers who have done so much and have contributed so much of not just their money, but their time,” said Smith. “They give a piece of their life.”
Those who are interested in volunteering with or donating to TVCT can call Smith Chevrolet-Cadillac for more information at 209-632-3946. To stay up to date with TVCT events, visit their Facebook page, Turlock Veterans Charitable Trust.