(Contest Nominee) VETERAN’S PASSPORT TO HOPE Is Focused on Helping Colorado Veterans

VETERAN’S PASSPORT TO HOPE is one of seven local charities nominated in Citywide Banks’ Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place June 1-14, 2013. The Denver/Boulder community is invited to vote for a nominee and enter prize drawings. The charity receiving the most contest votes will receive a $5,000 donation, while the other nominees will split $2,500 in donations based on the voting results.

When Shane Schmutz, an Army Captain and Blackhawk helicopter pilot who served three combat tours in Iraq, started Veteran’s Passport to Hope (VP2H), a nonprofit organization focused on helping Colorado’s 420,000 veterans as well as local veteran-friendly organizations, he learned just how little civilians knew about the many serious issues that veterans faced.

They knew very little, for example, about how widespread Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was or about how TBI (traumatic brain injury) was on the rise due to the newer types of weapons used against the US military in the last 12 years. They didn’t know that the military was facing the highest suicide rate it’s ever seen, a staggering sky-high divorce rate, and a significantly higher unemployment rate than the civilian population.

So Schmutz, the founder and executive director of VP2H, decided that the main mission of VP2H would be to raise awareness about these serious issues. If more people had an idea of what they were going through, he thought, maybe they’d be more understanding and supportive as veterans transition from active service.

Schmutz also learned about other nonprofits in Colorado doing great things for veterans – but many of them struggling financially with low visibility. So, VP2H’s secondary mission is to help raise funds for more than 60 Colorado nonprofits that work to help veterans. “Instead of being just another nonprofit, we try to find ways to maximize our efforts with other local nonprofits to move veteran causes forward,” Schmutz explained.

Each year, VP2H picks one or more veteran-friendly organizations to donate funds raised at special events. Last year, the nonprofit hosted its First Annual Veteran’s Passport to Hope Gala event. The event raised $247,000 that went to the Wounded Warriors Project.  This year’s gala will be on October 10, 2013, and will benefit Project Sanctuary, Vail Veteran’s Program, and The Home Front Cares. Full details about the upcoming gala are available at www.VP2H.org.

The third part of VP2H’s mission is to bring collaboration between these local nonprofits in order to make them less competitive and more effective. Schmutz held the organization’s second symposium this spring, bringing together all the leaders of these groups to discuss best practices in important areas like recruiting board members, marketing, SEO, website development and fundraising.

Schmutz emphasizes that VP2H is entirely volunteer-based and neither he nor anyone else involved receives any type of compensation.

What drove Schmutz to give so much of his time and energy to helping veterans? For one, his father and two brothers have served, or continue to serve, in the military so the institution is close to his heart. And then even after he left the military and started to lead a comfortable life with a good job in New York City, he still felt a longing to serve — but not in combat.  “I had this hole in my chest because my soldiers didn’t have the same opportunities that I did,” said Schmutz. “I had a desire to continue to serve by helping these soldiers out.”

When he moved to Denver for a job at the end of 2011, that desire helped motivate him to start VP2H. And learning about all the other Colorado organizations further sparked the concept behind the organization’s three-part mission.

Schmutz says the community can help the organization by purchasing a ticket to the gala or making a donation.  Local businesses are encouraged to become an event sponsor. And, last but not least, it’s important to spread the word to veterans about the organization and to civilians so that they understand why such an organization is needed.

A $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks would go toward helping plan the gala and organize the symposiums. For more information on ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.VP2H.org

Vote to Give Veteran’s Passport to Hope a $5,000 Hand-Up
As a Colorado owned bank focused entirely on the Front Range, Citywide Banks shares a commitment to our local community with VP2H. Through our Charity Hand-Up Contest, we are proud to spotlight the great work and ongoing needs of Denver/Boulder nonprofits. Based on the results of a 14-day vote, the local community will determine how $7,500 is split among seven Colorado charities nominated by Citywide Banks employees. The charity receiving the most votes will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The remaining donation amounts will correspond to the voting results for each nominated charity. The voting public can also enter to win great prizes, including dinner for two at some of Denver’s top restaurants. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here. Full contest details are at www.CitywideBanks.com/charity/.

How to Cast Your Vote – June 1 -14, 2013
The contest is open to the general public within the Denver/Boulder community (non-customers welcome to participate; no purchase necessary). The easiest way to vote is online by clicking the “Charity Contest” tab on the Citywide Banks Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to “like” the bank’s Facebook page to cast a vote/entry online. Supporters may alternatively participate by casting a vote/entry in-person at one of Citywide Banks 12 Denver/Boulder branches. Just stop by any branch during regular business hours and complete an official contest ballot. As a reminder, supporters cannot vote through both online and branch methods. One vote/entry is permitted during the 14-day contest. After voting on Facebook, users may use sharing buttons to easily invite their Facebook friends to vote for their favorite charity.

Spread the Word about Voting for VP2H
Tell your coworkers, friends, and family in Colorado to cast their vote for your favorite nonprofit. Use the sharing buttons above this article, on the Facebook voting page, or throughout Citywide Banks’ social media pages to help spread the word.

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