Since 2011, more than 2.3 million American men and women have been deployed to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, some more than once. Studies of these returning veterans have shown that many have experienced or continue to experience significant difficulty transitioning back into civilian life upon their return. Central New York is home to more than 7,000 veterans, signifying a need for support services. This sparked the vision for Clear Path for Veterans by co-founders Melissa Spicer, Steve Kinne MD (ret.), MPH Col. (ret.) USAF, and Melinda Sorrentino.
Established in 2011, Clear Path offers a “landing pad” for returning veterans to decompress, reintegrate, and realize wellness. Clear Path’s mission is to help active military, veterans, and their families manage the transition to civilian life through wellness-enhancing programming. These services are delivered at the Clear Path Lodge, located in Chittenango, where veterans and their families are surrounded by acres of natural beauty, providing a safe and nurturing environment to augment the process of restoration and warrior transition.
Clear Path offers a wide variety of activities, including the Warrior Reset Program, which delivers empowering self-help options, and Dogs2Vets, which matches shelter dogs with veterans to aid in developing coping mechanisms for reintegrating into the community.
“Our Dogs2Vets program teaches veterans how to live in the moment, relax, and better communicate, ultimately leading to a healthy transition into civilian life,” said co-founder Melissa Spicer.
Clear Path also hosts a weekly Wednesday Canteen, which offers free lunch, coffee and beverages to veterans in a place where they can relax and socialize; but it doesn’t end there. Clear Path also hosts a program emphasizing culinary therapy with community integration, as well as recreational and agricultural programs that highlight recreational therapy as a means for overcoming disabilities.
A Community Foundation grant helped Clear Path purchase a high-capacity color printer and database system. Additional printing capabilities enable the organization to better educate veterans and the Central New York community about its programs with the use of handouts and promotional materials. The new database management software helps staff organize data into a central location, making it more easily accessible.
“We serve 700 vets a month and the grant has given us the opportunity to reach a lot more veterans, ultimately better serving the community which is what the Community Foundation is all about.” said Spicer. “Our goal is to continue growing and providing more veterans with a place where they feel they belong and are part of a family.”