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Meet the Staff Series: Bob Wheeler's Story
staff writer, Caitlin Steinberg
Bob Wheeler, manager of Veterans’ Outreach’s Alabama office is most certainly a character. A proud, retired Navy veteran, Wheeler has been involved with the VO for nearly 11 years and stands as one of our staunchest supporters.
All those who work with Wheeler can attest to Bob and his wife, Carol’s, devotion to the veteran’s cause. For those of you who don’t interact with Wheeler, the staff here at Veterans’ Outreach are excited to clue you in!
Veterans’ Outreach president John Ely’s description of Wheeler’s time with the VO aptly sums it up.
“[Bob and Carol] are so humorous and loving together. They are great to be around with and they care about everyone- especially our vets!”
How did you get involved with Veterans’ Outreach?
“Well, I originally found a little advertisement in the paper when I was living in Ohio at the time and its been about 11 years,” Wheeler said.
“I began going out and doing collections for the vets at stores like Walmart, Krogers, and Sams Club in the area,” Wheeler added. “I went there so many times, when they had employee cookouts, I was invited! Best steaks you could imagine!”
After five years of work with Veterans’ Outreach, Bob and his wife moved to Alabama to be closer to their family- a move which would open up endless possibilities.
“I told John that if he wanted to open up an Alabama office, I could help him set it up and get things going… I went out and registered with the state of Alabama, got approval, set up an office, and ran a couple of ads in the paper,” Wheeler said. “We’ve been open for about 2 years! Really, it’s been great!”
Ely remembers the enthusiasm which Bob and his wife Carol put towards establishing the Decatur office.
“[It’s that] indomitable spirit that they bring to the table to help our vets… like no other than I know,” Ely said. “They adopted our mission as their own!”
A Day in the Life of Decatur, Alabama
“In Decatur, I oversee the office, helping everyone get things going,” Wheeler said. “We operate only a day and a half a week- all day Monday and part of Wednesday. The rest of the time we’re out working in the field.”
“We’ve hired people throughout the northern part of Alabama, not just Decatur… we call them ‘Mountain Men’ because you’re got to go around the mountain to get to them. Most of our volunteers and employees work 1-2 hours away!”
With such a dedicated, colorful volunteer crew and staff working at the office, it is simple to see how the VO team can lend aid in such extreme cases of poverty and need. Without this team, Bob additionally noted, the VO would not be able to put their best foot forward and regularly work with the VA and Salvation Army.
“Most of the vets we help are retirees and they can’t hardly make a decent living on retirement money or if they do have social security, they might not have a pension plan,” said Wheeler. “Really, they just don’t have enough money to make it work, to pay their bills.”
“And we work hand in hand assisting the VA in Huntsville. Actually, we got a letter just today acknowledging and thanking us for helping vets and homeless in the area!”
Ely expressed high hopes for the working relationship between the VO and the VA.
“[While] Huntsville is where they get most of their requests for help, in actuality, any VA can call us throughout the state,” Ely said. “And they will, as we continue to grow territorially.”
Memorable moments of service in Decatur
“Awhile back, my wife found an 80 year old veteran living in a car under a bridge,” Wheeler said. “We called up the VA and had this gentleman put into an assisted living program in Hartselle, got a roof over his head, and through one of the VA’s grant programs, they’re now paying his rent.”
‘We cleaned him up, got his car new tires, and got him involved in the community of Hartselle… Those are the ones that really need help. These are the worst cases where you’ve got an 80 year old trying to live out of his car under a bridge… you’ve just got to help them out.”
The future of Decatur…?
“Well, we assist vets at risk and the homeless by paying their utility bills, paying direct financial assistance, purchasing bus tickets, but trust me,” Wheeler insisted. “We’re just getting started!”
If Bob Wheeler’s friendly demeanor and sense of humor doesn’t sell you on the VO, perhaps the rest of the staff in Decatur will. If you’re ever near the area, stop on in; you’re sure to find a great conversation with Wheeler, his wife Carol, or any of the other employees!
“They are a most spectacular couple,” VO president Ely said. “A couple you would love to have living right next door! I do love these folks like they are family!”
If you or anyone you know needs assistance or is interested in getting involved at our Decatur, Alabama location please call toll free: 866-3VET-NET or email: email@example.com.
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