The year-long Facebook voting program has RPC–VetHELP up against nine other finalists, who each won one month’s competition dating back to June 2012. RPC–VetHELP won $25,000 in the April Aprons in Action event, qualifying them for the chance to now win even more.
The non-profit with the most votes by May 31 on Home Depot’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/homedepotfoundation, or apronsinaction.homedepotfoundation.org, will win the first place prize, while second place receives $150,000 and third place earns $100,000.
As of Tuesday, May 14, RPC–VetHELP sits in fourth place with 8,085 votes.
The Saratoga County RPC is a non-profit organization that includes VetHELP, which serves the needs of homeless military veterans by empowering them to embrace and maintain independent living and self-sufficiency.
The April contest will help the RPC–VetHELP’s female veteran Guardian House in Ballston Spa with a healthy living area project and thrift store that will be used as a training facility to help female veterans become independent and further develop skills to re-enter the workforce.
Kathy Dunlap, a Navy veteran who has lived at the Guardian House since October 21, 2011 – 18 days after it opened for residence – said she is one example of the help offered by the RPC.
"I have done a complete turnaround from when I entered here," Dunlap said. "Literally, I could not coordinate myself (before the Guardian House). I had an apartment that I failed at keeping and when it came time to packing out, I didn’t know what way to turn. I was literally turning around in circles in the middle of the floor because I couldn’t figure out where to go and what to do next."
Dunlap is the youngest of six kids, five of whom joined the military. She joined the Navy in 1980 and served through 1986, becoming a Petty Officer Second Class E5 Electronics Technician. While stationed in Thurso, Scotland, she would take primary broadcasts from Norfolk and repeat them for North Atlantic.
Her military experience helped her get a job with Xerox in South Carolina, and later Albany, but the transition time back in the states was not easy.
"I probably have not been normal, mentally, my adult life," Dunlap said. "It’s something with women in the military," Dunlap said. "It’s like once we’re out, we never served. That part of our life doesn’t exist anymore. We just keep going on."
Dunlap said strides have been made to change that mindset and also help female veterans know the resources for help are out there – like the RPC’s Guardian House, where almost everyone who works there is a veteran themselves. It’s a place where people can talk to somebody who understands what veterans are going through, Dunlap said.
"Just call," Dunlap recommended for anyone in a position similar to what she was once in. "This is the right place for you. They’ll help you find the right place. They are here for the veteran women. It doesn’t matter if you get help from us or someone else. They’re here for you."
Dunlap said that going to support groups and "getting her head straight" was made possible by the support at the Guardian House, knowing that she could go to therapy and come back to know people were there to help.
The RPC and VetHELP did just that for Dunlap – they helped. Dunlap has since signed a lease for her own apartment, which she is moving into June 1.
"VetHELP, which is the umbrella under which we all operate, they do everything," Dunlap said. "They help you with housing. They help with employment. They’ve got the men’s house (Vet House) and the women’s house for the homeless people. They help you get connected to get health care. It’s an umbrella that helps you get in touch with everything."
Now, Dunlap is the assistant house manager at the Guardian House, volunteers at a spay and neuter clinic and is the president of the depression bipolar support line for Saratoga County.
Hopeful for Aprons in Action votes, she said the money could be used for creating a computer room and add to their exercise equipment amongst other things, as $100,000 plus would help improve both the men’s house and women’s house tremendously.
Regardless of the votes, Saratoga County is a place Dunlap has grown to love.
"I love Saratoga County," Dunlap said. "They bleed red white and blue. This is a very patriotic county."