Meet the Founder of Vets Returning Home, Sandy Bower
Sandy Mc Nabb Bower began her early years in a most inauspicious manner. Homeless in Detroit at the age of 14 and a single mother by 15, she knew the hardships of existing day to day while trying to get ahead. Her life required hard work and long weeks, all the while juggling motherhood with a growing family. As time passed, Sandy rose incrementally to become the owner of Empire Payments, a successful credit-card processing company. Her business connections also provided access to building strong community relationships and developing innate knowledge in helping others.
By October of 2013, Sandy was retired from her well-established career yet felt she could do more to support a philanthropic cause. Her early life experiences had given her an appreciation for the plights of the homeless and further research revealed that veterans returning from service have definitive needs. Sandy knew she could not only help them, but also had the drive to do so. She used her retirement savings to purchase the former Red Cross building in Roseville, Michigan and establish the non-profit shelter and training center, Vets Returning Home.
“I knew I could help there,” she says. “They arrive home from serving and are entitled to benefits, but all too often fall through the cracks and give up. So many are broken, and the next thing that happens is they are in a crisis situation.”
VRH’s multi-floor, 11,000-square foot facility houses more than 40 male and female vets at a time, provides in excess of 800 onsite meals per week, and assists through its own resource center to counsel each veteran. A career closet offers professional clothing and there are extras, like a theater room and sensory-deprivation tank. The VRH food pantry is accessible as well as overall transitioning assistance, complete with furniture and supplies. More than 1,400 in-house residents have been helped, in addition to 250-plus offsite along with their families. And, the latest help to fundamental need involves finding free cars for vets.
By creating a program uniquely designed to address the “total veteran in crisis,” VRH feeds the psyche and soul as well as the body. Sandy and her staff oversee able direction to accessing VA programs and benefits, job-readiness training, educational guidance, job placement, and permanent housing referrals. These efforts ensure that veterans, following stabilization, are able to move to fully-furnished apartments--placing residents into an average of three apartments per month--with a strong, forward-moving plan of action.
This proven method results in the creation of contributing community members, produced entirely without government funding. Instead, VRH relies upon local support and a series of annual fundraisers. Some of the events that have facilitated sustenance include the Wild Game Dinner, Oakland County Bar Association Veterans Committee Golf Outing, Holy Name Catholic Church Fundraiser, Cars & Cigars, Indianwood Golf & Country Club Men’s Invitational, and more.
Keeping the lights on and potatoes in the pot has never been more challenging than when maneuvering through a pandemic, but Sandy continues daily to stabilize financial support for VRH. And with that, she nurtures hope to ensure veterans a future.
For more information, visit www.vetsreturninghome.org
Sandy Bower (Founder/Volunteer Director-Vets Returning Home)