Vets create nonprofit to support vet court; always need more mentors

A few good mentors are always needed for the local veterans court program.

And in an effort to support the mentors and the vet court participants, Joe Parsetich has set up a nonprofit to accept donations.

Parsetich is the mentor coordinator and the nonprofit can accept donations that will offset costs for mentors and participants in social activities as they work through the intensive 12- to 18-month program.

Vet court, headed by Judge Greg Pinski, currently has 26 participants and 12 mentors, a significant growth since the court was established in November 2013 and graduated the first six in March 2015.

Mentors are all volunteers and though the effort is fulfilling, it can sometimes become a financial burden, Parsetich said.

They organize social activities to help veterans as they go through the intensive vet court, Parsetich said, and some veterans and mentors can’t afford to fund those activities.

For example, some veterans like to golf or fish and mentors have received tickets to Voyagers baseball and Americans hockey games. The nonprofit allows for mentors to offer a tax deduction for those donations and also fundraise to support fishing licenses for those who find healing on the water or greens fees for those who enjoy a round of golf.

“We’re not looking for megabucks,” Parsetich said. “We’re trying to get the participants to break away from the negative environment that got them into trouble.”

The nonprofit is Veterans Mentoring Veterans Program and they have an account at 1st Interstate Bank, but it’s best to call Parsetich for the tax id number and to ensure a receipt for tax purposes.

For this program, cash or items such as tickets to sporting events or the symphony are best, but for questions, call Parsetich at 788-2335 or email prjoe@bresnan.net.

For those looking to donate items like clothing, furniture, sporting goods or other items, Parsetich recommends the Grace Home, a transitional living facility for veterans.

Parsetich is also organizing an auction/fundraiser for Disabled American Veterans for Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Inn, 301 14th St. S.W. The event is open to the public and more than 150 area businesses have contributed items for the auction.

Parsetich is the mentor coordinator for Montana’s 8th Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court and said they are still in need of mentors.

The qualifications to be a mentor include: honorable discharge from the military; at least one year of unsupervised sobriety; and ability to pass a background check.

“We want to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, before trying to help others,” Parsetich said.

Parsetich serves as mentor coordinator and currently mentors five participants in vet court, “so having some help would be tremendously appreciated.”

The ideal ratio would be one mentor per participant, but Parsetich said that is unprecedented in vet courts nationwide. Some programs have even more participants to mentors than Great Falls and Parsetich said “we’re fortunate here.”

There are currently two active duty mentors, one a pilot at the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard and one an enlisted airman from Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Parsetich said they try to pair mentors and participants based on service branch, type of service, combat versus non-combat and hobbies as a starting point.

 

It’s especially important for combat veterans to be paired with fellow combat veterans, Parsetich said, since many times veterans won’t open up to someone who hasn’t had a similar experience. The same is true of veterans who have been victims of military sexual trauma, he said.

To graduate from the program, veterans have to have a job and steady housing and there’s with a 25 percent or less rate of recidivism, it’s a highly successful program, Parsetich said.

Want to donate or become a mentor? Call Joe Parsetich at 788-2335 or email prjoe@bresnan.net.