This Able Veteran Spotlight: Meet Dani Figueroa, This Able Veteran Graduate, and Her Dog, Valor
Massac Quilters Guild Raises Donations for This Able Veteran Six Years in a Row
“Those things were good,” said president Janet Mittendorf. “But we decided we wanted to do something that would make a bigger difference.”
The group decided that would be by helping veterans, but they weren’t sure how to find a local organization.
And then, Mittendorf attended a Red Hats Society meeting where This Able Veteran representatives were speaking and passing out brochures.
“I thought their program sounded amazing, so I contacted them,” Mittendorf said. “We decided we wanted to find a place that was helping veterans and we knew they were getting the help they need. We’ve found something and stuck with it.”
That was 2017 since the partnership began. Since then, Massac Quilters Guild has made and raffled off quilts, raising thousands of dollars for the veterans’ organization. That latest donation was presented to This Able Veteran executive director Rebecca Renshaw on June 5.
The raffling of two quilts raised $2,442.80 during the 2023 AQS Paducah Quilt Show.
Those funds are used by This Able Veteran to train service dogs for U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Headquartered in Carbondale, This Able Veteran has been helping veterans since 2011. Serving veterans from around the country, it was founded by Behesha Doan, who is the organization’s training director and the owner of Extreme K-9. As a trauma survivor, Doan brings insight to how a correctly trained service dog, combined with a trauma resiliency program, can make a difference in the lives of those suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and those with co-occurring substance abuse. Through This Able Veteran, Doan has developed a veteran-centric model of care that involves the veterans, their clinicians, the service dogs and This Able Veteran.
Renshaw explained the training program costs over $30,000 for each service dog as they get the service dogs as puppies to start training them right away. The dogs go home every night with a trainer and are specially trained for each veteran.
“There’s a very strenuous process we go through to select both the veterans and the dogs. Service dogs are selected based on their temperament, structural soundness, proven lineage of healthy genetics and several other qualifications. Veterans must fill out an online application to be considered for the program,” Renshaw emphasized.
“Once selected, we find out what they need,” Renshaw said. “We pair the dog with the veteran based on where the veteran lives, the veteran’s lifestyle, and the temperament of them both. We train that dog for that veteran specifically.”
During its almost 12-year history, This Able Veteran has graduated 80 pairs of dogs and veterans. The next class is set to graduate in late October.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” Mittendorf said.
Massac Quilters Guild members have already begun the work on the quilt they will be raffling off during the 2024 AQS Paducah Quilt Show. The fabric and other materials will be donated allowing proceeds to go to This Able Veteran. The members divvy up the work of each block and then put it all together by January.
“Ticket sales will begin in February. Tickets are $1 each and available from guild members or during the April quilt show, during which AQS allows us to sell tickets at the Julian Carroll Convention Center,” said Mittendorf.
The Massac Quilters Guild was organized in 1983 to encourage interest in all phases of quilting. The group meets the first Monday of the month at the Metropolis Community Center at 9:30 a.m. with doors opening at 9 a.m. Meetings are held the second Monday if the meeting day falls on a holiday.
“We’re a very small group, but we try to get a lot done,” Mittendorf said.
For more information on This Able Veteran, visit thisableveteran.org.
This Able Veteran Spotlight: Meet Jon Steele, This Able Veteran Graduate, and His Dog, Lobo
Jon Steele completed the Trauma Resiliency Program at This Able Veteran in the fall of 2020. At the end of the program, he was paired with his service dog, Lobo, and it’s been a lasting match ever since. Recently, he and Lobo were asked by Mid America Pet Food Company to go to Dallas and be in a video featuring veterans and their service dogs. Naturally, Jon jumped at the chance and he and Lobo flew to Dallas in early March. The video will be aired later this month.
“The experience was so much fun! It was amazing to see how much coordination and effort goes into a video shoot like this. All the crew were so friendly and helpful, and my hat goes off to them for their excellence!” said Steele. “Lobo was amazing of course. I had him vested most of the time, either for the shoot or working. He certainly helped me stay present and comfortable on set.”
Steele says that This Able Veteran’s program was something he will never forget and that he is so grateful to have participated.
“The Trauma Resiliency Program was tough, with a lot of information and emotions, but worth every second. The people at This Able Veteran are simply the best people and program you could imagine. I feel like I was introduced to a whole new family that I’m thankful and proud to be a part of!”
Steele encourages other veterans who are suffering from PTSD to consider applying to This Able Veteran.
“This Able Veteran provided me with the expertise and support to be more introspective. I have a much better understanding of what is triggering me and how to mitigate it. My marriage has strengthened and relationships that were nearly severed are now very strong,” said Steele.
Steele lives in Thornton, Colorado, approximately 30 minutes north of Denver and he is a cyber security engineer at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. Steele says he and his wife enjoy taking Lobo for hikes in the Colorado Mountains, and swimming with him in nearby lakes.
‘I love watching him run and play in the water like a little pup. He has brought me so much joy!”
If you would like to learn more about This Able Veteran and its mission, please visit thisableveteran.org. To learn how you can support This Able Veteran, visit https://thisableveteran.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/