Veterans’ Outreach Will be Able to Reach More Veterans in Need!

This is a breakout year for Veterans’ Outreach.  We are very proud of the support that we have provided for 29 years, helping veterans tens of thousands of times.  Most of the staff and volunteers have been part of our team for many years, we call ourselves the Veterans’ Outreach family and you are welcome to join us.  One volunteer in his 70’s even calls me “Dad” and he’s older than me!

We start the morning with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. So, what they say is true – a family that prays together stays together.  We have had many eye-opening experiences from the vets that we have served. Those magical moments, when God worked through us, and seeing the joys come alive in those vet client’s faces are unforgettable. When they seek us out or any of the referring agencies, they know that we’ll do our best to get that veteran the help that they need and leave with pride and integrity in tack.

This year I turn 69…Most folks have already retired and enjoying the good life retirement has to offer.  Nooo, the good LORD just made my plate much fuller!

The Veterans’ Outreach Complex was born just before Christmas of 2022. That is when two local realtors came by our office, after they saw the Interview by my wife, Teri, about our charity. Unbeknownst to her she was presented an award for “Hometown Hero”!  She was shocked by the award, and she announced that she did not deserve it. The interview promoted that we were looking for a bigger building for several years now.  We ran out of space for accepting physical donations.

Well, the realtors said that our new building lay across the street and the auction was tomorrow. Talking about short notice! We attended the auction, and the new chapter begins! Increasing the size of our office space and parking lot to over 700%! We are hoping that the Grand Opening will be in the springtime of 2023.

We are targeting other organizations that are veteran friendly, to join us so we can have a full-blown veteran service center. We have three buildings, two of those have office spaces for lease. We have a total of sixteen office spaces there. There are six office spaces available for those that are interested.

So, now comes the tooling and configuring on this new project of assembling and welcoming our new partners. We need sponsors, developers, volunteers, organizations, foundations, clubs, and just about anyone that wants to help make a positive difference in our veterans’ lives.

I am looking for anyone that is interested. I am thinking that everyone should be!  866.212.5592 or email me at [email protected]

BTW…Our first Event in 2023 is called “tine’ time

On February 11, 2023 at the fabulous Lake Club located at 1140 Paulin Rd, Youngstown, OH.

You can call for tickets at

330-755-5792 x5 or 330-715-5474 or visit

Help us help our men and women that served us!

John Ely

God Blessed Veterans’ Outreach This Christmas

Teri Ely, our Executive Director, was being interviewed for a Veterans’ Day Story on how the charity was helping veterans in need. The activity is bustling like crazy! There is goodwill just dripping from the ceiling.

Anybody that visits is taken back on how everyone, all, have a super amped feeling while they are there, and they leave with that after-glow of humble satisfaction through serving veterans.

The interns, volunteers, staff, visitors, contributors, and veterans-in-need are confident that hope and Godly things are happening at this charity and through its’ mission.

As the reporter was packing up, he reached into his brief case and pulled out a plaque that says, “WYTV Proudly recognizes Teri Ely and Veterans’ Outreach as a Hometown Hero”.  Well, this caught her completely unprepared and she had to hesitate and figure out what was happening.

Being stymied…she said shyly that she doesn’t deserve this honor. The reporter told her to look around…you are responsible for all of this!  She responded by stating that all good things come from God and then thanked him for the honor of being named a “Hometown Hero”.

One of her pleas during that interview was that we were looking for a bigger building.  The reporter took that small excerpt and played it on the TV stations night and day before her main interview aired.

That following Monday, a couple of realtors showed up at her office and indicated that the properties around the corner were being auctioned off tomorrow!

They asked us to join them for the event! We would have never believed that we would have the opportunity of getting something of that magnitude.

It was Arby’s National Headquarters at one time. It includes three buildings on 2.6 acres and a huge parking lot. It will increase our office space by almost 700%. A big jump indeed! Our bid went through and low and behold, we are the new owners of The Veterans’ Outreach Complex!

We at the charity are so thankful for God’s Presence through our MISSION. This gift to our veterans couldn’t be timelier than at Christmas of 2022!  We say this with pride and hope, “Merry Christmas to all our veterans!  “We are here for you, always!”

We are thrilled to share this news with you.  Your support means everything, it means the mission moves forward and stands ready to meet the needs of our nation’s heroes, United States Veterans.

The reality is that we are moving into a space that is seven times larger than our current space.  The buildings are brick and in very good condition, but renovations will need to be done to make the space functional for our needs.  We need to raise a few walls, purchase commercial refrigeration units, purchase clothing display racks, and update flooring.

We are a non-profit, we raise all funds ourselves through donations, grants, and special events.  We undergo a voluntary audit each year with Hill, Barth, and King.  We have achieved a Platinum Seal of Transparency with GuideStar.  Charity Navigator has given us a score of 100 out of 100.

We ask that you consider donating to help Veterans’ Outreach with the building improvements that will help more veterans.  Any amount is appreciated.

Our Board, Staff, and Volunteers wish you a wonderful holiday season.

May God Bless You!

-John Ely

Dad Survived the Pearl Harbor Attack and Tended to Many Victims

William Gordon Ely was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, where he worked on the family farm when he was just 8 years old. Dad later faced the Depression with his family and joined the service at 17 when he lied about his age.

He was finally stationed at Pearl Harbor after touring the South Pacific and wrote to his mom that he found paradise, bragging about catching a 40-pound octopus and having a barbecue on the beach with the guys. Just before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, “Bill” was on the porch of the barracks because of an upset stomach from cucumber salad the night before, which saved his life.

The airfields were the first attacked and more than 2,335 men were lost there. Dad was a paramedic, so he was racing off in his ambulance truck just trying to get away from the Japanese aircraft, or Zeros, which were strafing him on both sides of his vehicle. The attack lasted a total of 90 minutes and left 2,400 dead and 1,100 wounded.

My dad tended to as many wounded as he could, while he was wounded as well. He even dove in the blazing water rescuing many other of those attacked men at the Harbor.. After the attack, he spent days administering blood and glucose constantly, especially, to one seriously burned victim.

The hospital was overloaded, so Dad would change his bandages, and even slept with that man to keep him warm, so he wouldn’t go into shock. That man’s mom wrote a letter to my dad thanking him for saving her son’s life.

The letter was shown to the Red Cross and the charity started a blood drive, using the importance of that story. My dad went on to be a founder of the “Pearl Harbor Survivors” Columbus chapter, and co-founder of eight other chapters. He was best friends with the man that started a Military Museum., Mott’s Military Museum.

He left in his will a major donation to the Mott’s Military Museum of Columbus, to help with the expansion of the new wing, where his Pearl Harbor coat and memorabilia are on display. He had a photographic memory, which was tortuous to him. Every time, though, he had a chance to talk about that historic day, he wouldn’t hesitate. He was A CONSTANT reminder of that horrific day when the world came to a halt. He is forever thankful that Warren Mott and his Museum would be there to tell the story, always!

“Lest we forget,” Dad, you are part of history!

Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Son…John Ely

The Power of the American Soldier

Death, destruction, catastrophic hate, struggles, disparity, and all the things that make up the ingredients of war. It is never easy, and many get hurt, displaced, and even killed. Wars touch us all…some more than others. Wars and its effects started when Cain killed Able.

All wars begin with evil. Evil intent is the reason. As a world of human beings, we will never be able to live together without hostilities.  You and I were born out of war.  Without war, this great nation would not exist. Look at the Mid-East, for thousands of years there has been bloodshed for many reasons. It all comes down to evil.  Man’s unwillingness to relent or observe a fellowship.  America…the United States…is the closest that any Nation has come to peaceful co-existence.

I almost hesitate saying United States, for we are in an upheaval, a divisiveness, on so many levels.

We, as a Grateful Nation, should realize what we have and not only cherish our Nation but understand where we come from and live free and safe – because of our Soldiers. The 10% that protect and serve the other 90%.  No draft needed these days for our Soldiers defy fear and sign their name in blood to do battle with any enemy that threatens our way of life…our FREEDOMS!

Our nation needs to unite and look to the American Soldier as an example.  The Power of the American Veteran is immense and deserves our deepest respect and love.  We need to be there for them in their time of need.  If you are a veteran or have a veteran in your family, even a friend, you must know what I mean. My father and brother, I miss them so much, served at Pearl Harbor and Vietnam. My son is still serving as a Captain in the Army and was stationed in Afghanistan. All three came back with PTSD and many horrific health anomalies. They sacrificed like so many of their service brothers and sisters. They share a common denominator of faith and trust with each other that is unshakeable. Veterans are all about helping other veterans.

My great uncle was in the Army during WWI and when WWII broke out, he was 39 and rejoined the Army! That is what I am talking about!!!  What they had to go through, the experiences, shoulder to shoulder, in do or die scenarios, we citizens can’t imagine it.

Veterans’ Outreach is blessed to be able to be there to greet and help. Yes, the stories are many and those stories only make our resolve stronger to help as many veterans as possible.  We have many veterans involved with our mission.  The Power of the American Veteran is very apparent, all-over America and around the world.

Please realize what Veterans mean to our nation, and to you personally.  Thank them with a smile, a nod, pick up their tab at a restaurant.  Any way that you can show appreciation means more than you could know.  It helps with the things they deal with everyday lurking in the corners of their hearts and minds.

Check out this solo play titled, “The American Soldier”. It will give you a bitter taste of what many of our veterans go through. I dare you! It’s going to hurt but will make you proud!

Please visit our website and donate, become a member, volunteer, or ask how you can get involved to help with the mission.

God Bless America and our powerful Veterans!

Angels Come in Many Forms!

Many times, there are things that happen that can’t be explained or don’t make sense, or are too good to be true.  I am talking about some angels that are veterans that are now united in motorcycle clubs. They are the roughest and toughest of us all.  They stood tall, volunteered to protect our country, and now they volunteer to help causes in America.  They ride for freedom, they ride for fun, and they ride to help others have a better life.  They have Poker Runs, Dice Runs, and other fundraising – all to benefit worthy causes.

Ronald McDonald House, Honor Flights, Child Abuse, Literacy, Veterans in Need – they have helped them all.

Veterans’ Outreach has been blessed by several fundraising rides hosted by The American Legion, Abate, and The Combat Veterans.

This is the second year that Combat Veterans Association Chapter 12-6 has raised funds for Veterans’ Outreach’s mission.  


Vets Helping Vets 

(from Combat Veterans Association Chapter 12-6 website)

We are an Association of Combat Veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces who ride motorcycles as a hobby. As a registered 501c3 veterans’ charity, our chapter’s mission is to support and protect those who have defended our country and our freedoms. Our focus is to provide assistance and help to individual veterans, other veteran organizations and registered charities. We sponsor and participate in many veteran-related motorcycle (and other) charity events each year, and as a non-profit organization, donate to various veteran causes. Our Mission Statement is Veterans Helping Veterans. Our membership is comprised of: Full Members (those with verified combat service), Supporter Members (those who have non-combat military service and have a strong dedication to helping veterans), and Auxiliary Member (Spouses of both Full and Supporter Members).

This year, this club raised funds for Disabled Veterans Outdoors, Honor Flight (Columbus), and Veterans’ Outreach. Last year, they contacted us out of the blue and said they wanted to raise funds for the mission.  The next time we heard from them was when they announced they would be riding their bikes from Cambridge to Youngstown to present the check at our 6th Annual Golf Scramble.  We were blown away by their support, they presented a check of $8,000!

We didn’t expect that…This year we were asked to attend the Honor Flight Event and we encountered a well-organized fundraiser with a great deal of leather-clad men and women, having a great time helping vets.  The event wrapped up their season of fundraising through riding.  It was held at a private home that had a fantastic space developed for just such an event – they call it Da’Shack.  Lots of space, lots of games, and lots of incredibly generous people.  Despite the rain that would not stop from the remains of Hurricane Ian, the event was a great success.  

Between all three of the charities selected, they amassed over $30,000!  Just amazing results from silent auctions, games, raffles, and so forth.

Veterans’ Outreach was presented with a check of $9,000, which was more than the previous year. Commander “Hell-Hound” Vickers said you could also expect more next year!

The passion that these men and women have is spectacular.  These folks are from rural parts of Ohio, these American Heroes, and they keep on setting up new goalposts. Veterans’ Outreach is very honored and grateful that they dedicate so much of their time to move the mission along its path, to respectfully serve and honor all veterans.

WWII Veteran Comes out of Retirement at 99 to Help Veterans

Joe Lavinger, aka “Crazy Joe” decided to go back to work to help veterans, after the Pandemic, to pick up where he left off.  We retired him from fundraising out of the Columbus Ohio region when he was 97. The Pandemic had just started sweeping the nation, we didn’t want to take any chances, so we asked him to stay home and be safe.  

Let me give a little background about Joe, before I continue.

He served in the Navy during WW II.  He was deployed on a minesweeper, called The USS Steady.  Their ship had the dangerous task of removing mines from minefields laid in the water to prevent ships from passing.  He and his buddies were more than a little apprehensive and scared out of their minds.  I think that’s when Joe realized his gifts for calming people down with his jokes and funny antics, while bombs were going off all around them.

His comedic flair continued after the war into a career of entertainment.  He thought if he could get that USS Steady audience of soldiers laughing, he could get anyone to laugh.  He formed an entertainment group, called the Tunetimers.  Eventually, he got the nickname “Crazy Joe” because of his wild antics on stage, then the group changed the name to

”Crazy Joe and the Tune Timers”!  It stuck and lasted for 56 years.

Joe married a young lady from his hometown of Bethlehem, named Mary!  He made jokes about that as well.   Joe and his group opened for acts like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Helen Reddy, Jackie Gleason, and many others. He, himself, is a living legend.

Now back to the present. I have been hosting great birthday parties for him since he was 89!

He’s worked part-time for Veterans’ Outreach since 2000 and had been a valuable fundraiser.  Through his efforts, thousands of veterans’ lives have been improved. 

His props are funny and crazy hats…many are animated.  He collected over 300 hats during his entertainment career. One day I called up his wife, Mary, and I asked her what Joe was doing then?  She he told me that he was on the Internet looking for another hat!  I nicknamed him, The” Glad Hatter”! That is exactly how he would get a conversation going.  Check out his gallery soon on!

This past July we celebrated his 99th birthday at an American Legion in Columbus, where he has been a member for 49 years. I was able to reach out to his band members and pull them together for a fantastic tribute to Crazy Joe, singing, dancing, and playing their hearts out. Bernie, the Commander, presented the cake to Joe and that itself was a show! Everyone had a great time, and especially, and of course, Crazy Joe.

It was at his party that he told me he’d like to go back to work.  He knows there are so many veterans that need his help.  I don’t know of anyone else that has come out of retirement at 99!

Since he doesn’t drive anymore, Volunteers of America has offered to drive Joe to special events where he can do his magic.  Joe’s got the best personal mission, that he lives by, better than anyone I’ve ever known.  “When I go out my door and meet 10 strangers, I hope that I can get them all to smile or laugh!”  Too bad more people can’t be like that!  There’s so much that he has given to our society and this organization, it’s beyond my skillset to really report his full impact. I always thought that he should have his own reality show.

When he and I still go out…like to the Hollywood Casino, he takes a valuable moment to give me some inspirational talks. When he puts his hand over mine, I know to shut up and listen. The inspiration that he has given me, and others is incomparable to anything else.  He is the embodiment of perseverance and the power of a good attitude and laughter.  God blessed us all for knowing him, to be able to be a productive member of society at more than 99 years old is something we can all aspire to. When he is out there, raising funds that are helping our veterans, in his 100th year of life…it is no laughing matter.  Joe is a perfect example of “The Greatest Generation”, a kind of steadfast resolve tempered with humor we could all benefit from. 

I would like to extend a rare treat to all our subscribers. If you would like to ask Joe a question on any subject or just to say hi, you can send those emails to me at [email protected].  Yes, Joe uses a cell phone and a computer, amazing, isn’t it?  I am sure Joe will respond with the hope that you will give him a smile or a laugh back.

As Joe continues his mission in this life, I will continue to share his stories and hopefully make our readers smile.  Thank you, Joe.

by John Ely

WWII Veteran Celebrates Epic 99th Birthday

Joe Lavinger from Bethlehem, PA was born on Wednesday, July 18th, 1923.  Some of the things that were happening at that time changed our lives forever. Read more

If I Can Dream

I believe we all have dreams…certain things that we want in life, maybe, for ourselves or for someone else.  How many of us wish that they had a MILLION dollars? That would solve everything, right? Wrong!

Many come into riches only to blow it away, often accompanied by despair, heartache, and worse.  Choices in life have consequences, and our lives are determined by our choices.  However, it isn’t that simple, sometimes the choices we make are under duress or influences outside of our understanding.

I experienced the homeless plight, firsthand, while visiting San Francisco many years ago.  That visit changed my life.  What stunned me was many were veterans!  It was unthinkable that our Nation’s Heroes were left to rot by the trolley tracks. The more I looked, the more I saw; homelessness was and is a big problem.  I called the mayor and wanted to ask how that this could happen? No resources, I was told, to devote to that problem.  The only action that was explained to me was that the city kept track on how they were found deceased!

That moment in time for me – the realization that horror was going on in plain sit, made me feel helpless.  So, I decided to do something about, is to create and start a charity that worked with veterans to keep them from becoming homeless or help them out of their homeless status.  Starting up a charity is a time consuming and lifelong endeavor.  I know, for I have 28 years of my life involved in this MISSION and I am grateful.

As we built our base and made connections, we learned how to help.  Veterans’ Outreach has helped veterans tens of thousands of times with financial assistance, food boxes, free apparel and household goods, and lots of TLC.  Yet, we see veterans that have issues with transitioning to civilian life and end up in trouble, trouble that could destroy the rest of their lives.  That bothered me, I wanted to do more.

When I least expected it, the LORD shined a “beacon of hope”, out of the great state of Kentucky.  A volunteer named Roger donated 110.5 acres of APPALACHIA that had been in his family for 100 years.

He asked me if I thought that I could use it to help veterans. I mulled over the possibilities for the best ways to help these hapless warriors.  Well, my dream was to help rid the nation of its homeless veterans, especially.  Giving their lives back was the mission.

My idea was to build a retreat where they could together and live for 6 months and work towards a deserved future.  Work the land and reconnect to nature, clear away the past through various therapies, build for the future with training that suits their skills.  Not just to have them expire in a cubical with the bare necessities of life, but to give them a way to share the American Dream, that they risked their lives for.  That is my DREAM.   The AMERICAN DREAM doesn’t have to be out of reach for them or be dead to them, with this MISSION.

Spiritually, Emotionally, Strengthening, Knowledge, Job Security, and Social Developments are all part of what we need, and should have, to navigate the elements of a successful life. I call it, “Heroes’ Passage, A Retreat for Veterans”.  You can read more about this project on our website

Below are the lyrics to a song that I find inspirational, and I believe will be the theme song for this project which could be the “Beacon of Hope” for many of our veterans.

If you’ve never heard this song, check it out.

“If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere.

Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue.

If I can dream of a better land

Where all my brothers walk hand in hand

Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true?


There must be peace and understanding… sometime.

Strong winds of promise that will blow away

All the doubt and fear.

If I can dream of a warmer sun

Where hope keeps shining on everyone

Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear?


We’re lost in a cloud

With too much rain.

We’re trapped in a world

That’s troubled with pain.

But as long as a man

Has the strength to dream

He can redeem his soul and fly!


Deep in my heart there’s a trembling… question,

Still I am sure that the answer’s gonna come somehow.

Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle,

And while I can think, while I can talk,

While I can stand, while I can walk,

While I can dream, please let my dream

Come true, right now.

Let it come true right now.

If you would like to help with this project, donations….100% of goes to this project. If you have a talent that you feel that you can help with? Please contact us. We thank you for your interests in making this dream for all veterans come true.

[email protected]

330-755-5792 (office)

330-398-2904 (cell)

Robert Wheeler outside of Veteran's Outreach Alabama.

We Mourn the Passing of the Co-Founder of Alabama Veterans’ Outreach

Robert William Wheeler

( January 09, 1937 – June 10, 2022 )

Robert W Wheeler of Hartselle passed on June 10th at his home. He was a US Navy Veteran and the Regional Manager of Veterans Outreach of Alabama. He is survived by his wife Carol Wheeler. Graveside service will be on June 19th at 2PM at Hartselle Memory Gardens.  Hartselle Heritage Funeral Home is assisting the family

I knew Bob for 20 years and have been deeply blessed through that relationship.  He joined Veterans’ Outreach mission back in 2002, pretty much after he retired.  Bob was a Navy veteran and served during the Bay of Pigs operations.  I know very little about his personal life before Veterans’ Outreach.  He didn’t like to talk about himself.   He was smart, savvy, charismatic, funny, kind, and gentle.  He made a mark on this world, and he will be remembered.

He passed away at his home with his loving wife Carol caring for him to the end.  As fate would have it, he passed in the same week that the Hartselle Veterans’ Outreach Office building was dedicated to him as a Tribute, now called THE WHEELER BUILDING.   The building is now known as the The Wheeler building.  Bob wasn’t able to see his name on the building with his eyes, but his heart was deeply touched in his last hours of this life.  

It was his passion and expertise that went into Alabama and created a resource for veterans that will live on and continue to stand ready to assist veterans in need.  Bob retired from Veterans’ Outreach in January of 2022.  Carol, his wife, has stepped in place for her husband as the Manager.  

The following tribute was published in February, and we’d like to honor him again.

Bob Wheeler, Veterans’ Outreach’s Regional Manager of Alabama, has been a great friend and advocate for veterans in the state of Alabama.  He truly has been a “beacon of hope” for thousands of veterans in their time of need.

He started with the mission out of Columbus, Ohio in 2002 when he retired from a management career.  Columbus, Ohio is his birthplace, January 9th in 1937.  When he and his wife, Carol, decided to move closer to family in Alabama, he offered to develop the state by opening a full-service office to offer assistance to veterans.

Bob has been passionate and worked tirelessly to help veterans in need.  He found a good location in Decatur for our first office in Alabama and wasted no time in getting the mission in operation.  His wife, Carol, came on board to manage the office.  Carol had been very quiet in early meetings with Veterans’ Outreach, but after she got involved, she has become the heartbeat of that office.   She has even visited homeless veterans living under bridges in an effort to lend a helping hand.

After a few years of getting established, Bob said that he was tired of paying rent and was going to find a building to purchase for the permanent home of Veterans’ Outreach in Alabama.  Bob has proven himself to Veterans’ Outreach many times and this wasn’t any different.  He found a great location with a couple of acres in Hartselle Alabama.

While Bob was at home one evening, he suffered a bad heart attack.  He had to have a quadruple by-pass.  Before the operation, John Ely visited him from the corporate office.   John was pleased that Bob was in good spirits and anxious to get “fixed up” and get back to work. John could tell that Bob was on some strong relaxers for he was strangely laughing out loud at silly things!

So, he took the opportunity to ask Bob a question that he had asked several times before and Bob’s answer was always “If I tell ya’, I will have to kill ya’!”   With the passage of time, even military operations get declassified, and John took the chance during that hospital visit to ask him that question again.

“Well Bob, I can’t remember what you did while you were in the military?” Bob looked up at the ceiling and said that he was in the Navy, on the USS Sampson, in the Intelligence Division.  Have you heard of the “Bay of Pigs?”  He said that he figured it was all declassified since it had been more than fifty years ago.

John said that he had of course heard of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Bob explained that he was on the Sampson during the blockade and was on a secret mission to topple Castro’s regime. They had trained Cuban exiles in Guerilla warfare.  Bob lifted his eyes and shook his head, he said it didn’t go well, those men were either killed or captured.  The mission was a huge failure that took just two days to unfold.

That was a long time ago, Bob has spent his life living, loving, and caring for others.  His service as a young man made that unbreakable connection to the men and women that serve so selflessly in the United States Armed Forces.

At the age of 85, his work has come full circle, and he must retire due to health concerns.

Carol has picked up the reins and will continue to help Alabama’s veterans.

We honor Robert Wheeler with this Freedom and Service Award; and we thank him for his unselfish dedication to the mission of helping veterans in need.

May God Bless Robert Wheeler!