The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 17, 2012

Leading veteran outreach in Philadelphia

Posted by Erik Lambertsen

Ari Merretazon and members of the Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry gather at Philadelphia’s City Hall

A group of Vietnam and Gulf War veterans, awarded a $25,000 grant through the BME Challenge last winter, recently announced a series of veteran outreach activities and seminars taking place in Philadelphia.

Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry provides spiritual, peer and benefit support, behavior health referrals and family services to veterans of past and current wars. It is led by Ari Merretazon, a Vietnam veteran who has shared his life story in an anthology on black veterans and has since worked to help those returning from war.

The next seminar is scheduled for Saturday, July 21. It will be hosted by the Church of the Holy Redeemer and take place at 1440 South St., Philadelphia, P.A.

Philadelphia City Council Members Curtis Jones, Jr., Jannie Blackwell and David Oh each expressed support for the group's Outreach and Stand-Down Center as a first point of contact for vulnerable veterans.

In a surprise development during the meeting, Merretazon and those gathered cheered as a City Council Hearing to examine Philadelphia's readiness to assist veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was confirmed for Sept. 11. This hearing, which will be held in City Hall, will examine some of the city’s deficiencies as outlined by the Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry.

A representative from the office of President of the City Council, Darrell Clarke, also pledged to organize weekly roundtable discussions made up of veterans, to keep Philadelphia informed and engaged about issues  affecting veterans from all different eras. “The gaps are there,” explained a representative from the city’s Office of Veteran Affairs, “but we are beginning to grow towards this issue.”

800,000 78,000 veterans live in Philadelphia with more coming home every day. The Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry stressed the importance that the city and its veteran organizations strengthen its lines of communication so that its community's returning heroes get the benefits that they deserve.

Erik Lambertsen, Knight liaison at The Philadelphia Foundation, wrote this post for KnightBlog

Watch Ari Merretazon's BME Leadership Award Video below:

Back to top