Local businesses, VFW and Veterans Independence Project team up to gift Maryland veteran with a car
Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md. March 18, 2023
WESTMINSTER, Md. (Tribune News Service) — Westminster veteran Anthony Morrissette several months ago found himself carless, unemployed, and on the brink of homelessness.
Morrissette, 40, was quickly able to find a job with help from the Carroll County Veterans Independence Project, but a job is no good without reliable transportation. Morrissette said the CCVIP went above and beyond with long-term support to help him in ways that no other organization could.
The veteran was all smiles last week when he received a car donated by Kim Heard at LaScuola Motorworks Auto Repair.
“I’m a person that has always worked,” Morrissette said. “I’m not really big on asking anybody for anything. I’ve always been independent and if I don’t have it then I have to figure it out. Before having this car, I was at the point where I was at the end, I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea what was gonna happen. I was frustrated. I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Morrissette remembered his 10-year-old son telling him to take care of himself and knew he had to do something. He said his son, who lives in Virginia, has been the inspiration he needed to keep going.
Morrissette worked hard to start his own business as a handyman after eight years of service in the Marine Corps, ending in 2011. Unfortunately, Morrissette said post-pandemic work was hard to come by and the veteran realized he needed a reliable source of income to sustain himself.
“I needed to figure out how to be independent,” Morrissette said. “There’s a thing where you can’t take care of anybody else until you can take care of yourself, and I wasn’t able to take care of myself mentally or physically.”
There is an unfortunate stigma against reaching out for help, CCVIP Executive Director Jason Sidock said, but CCVIP veteran advocate Nicole Shifflett of Hampstead was able to help Morrissette through every step of his new beginning after he walked through their doors last winter.
CCVIP launched in 2021. Sidock, of Union Mills, who is an Army veteran, said the organization is unique to Carroll as it provides long-term case management and follows a mantra of never saying no to a veteran in need, no matter the need. CCVIP is supported by the Kahlert Foundation and numerous smaller donors.
“I want to create an environment where veterans feel comfortable asking for help,” Shifflett said, “and then also showing them that the hope does come through.”
Morrissette said the help he received from CCVIP was different from that from other organizations because he always felt Shifflett treated him as a human in need of help rather than a box to be checked off. Shifflett helped the veteran with the job application process, and Morrissette was soon employed as a maintenance technician for Fifth Management, providing services for Taneytown Village and Thurmont Village apartments.
However, Morrissette’s new job seemed threatened because his old car was unusable.
“I lost all hope,” Morrisette said. “I had no idea what was gonna happen. I was facing homelessness, I didn’t how know I was going to pay rent, how I was gonna get around.”
The veteran’s boss graciously offered to drive him to and from work, 45 minutes each way, but Morrissette said it was not a long-term solution.
Unfortunately, finding help can be a hardship in and of itself. CCVIP partners with other local organizations to unlock available resources for veterans in need, but many services are restricted by income level.
This problem required some creative problem-solving. Shifflett said she happened to be talking about her job to Kim Heard of Westminster, the mother of one of Shifflett’s friends, when Heard realized she could help Morrissette.
“I’m guilty, like everyone else, of saying something needs to be done and then not doing anything,” Heard said.
Heard realized that the 2004 Cadillac CTS sitting in her driveway unused would be an easy thing to give to someone who has already given the country so much. That car was originally driven by Heard’s late father, who served in the Coast Guard, and she said he would love the idea of donating it to support a fellow veteran.
“We focus on too many other things that aren’t, in my opinion, as important as those who stood up for our country and continue to stand for country,” Heard said.
In another stroke of good luck, Shifflett’s fiance happened to be a mechanic at LaScuola Motorworks, and was able to convince owner John LaScuola to donate the parts and labor to make the car ready for Morrissette.
Repairs were relatively extensive, including tires, belts, suspension parts and more — the donation of parts and labor totaled around $3,000. LaScuola, of Westminster, said handing the car off to Morrissette was surprisingly emotional and it felt good to help someone in need.
“Having a local business means more than just making money, in my opinion,” LaScuola said. “The community is the one who allows us to even be there in the first place, so any way that I can try and give back makes the most sense — I try and institute that even in smaller ways in my business. It’s part of our business philosophy that our main goal is not really to make money, our main goal is to serve the community, and I personally believe that if we do that money will follow.”
The tire donation was particularly gracious because LaScuola does not stock tires, Sidock said. The repairs were performed at LaScuola’s newer Eldersburg location. The business opened in Randallstown in 1989.
Veterans of Foreign Wars District 7 Cmdr. Aaron “Doc” Dockery donated Morrissette’s first tank of gas and CCVIP provided funding for Morrissette to get his tags.
Sidock said Morrissette smiled like a kid in a candy shop when he received the tags and realized he was getting the help he needed.
“Anything that you can do for either a veteran or anybody in general — any small acts of kindness make huge ripples and really change somebody’s day and life,” Shifflett said.
Anyone in need of help from the Carroll County Veterans for Independence Project can call 667-314-3700, email email@example.com, or reach out to Shifflett directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in making a donation to support the project can also email email@example.com.
Sidock said veterans face unique challenges reacclimating to civilian life and any donation helps.
“This allows me to try to get back on my feet,” Morrissette said, “move into a new place, continue with a good job, have benefits, save up a little bit of money and eventually help somebody else out.”
(c)2023 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.)
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