Loving a veteran makes it easy to care about veterans' issues. But to Judy Macias, mail clerk at BOK Financial®, you shouldn't need to love them to care.
“Everyone knows a veteran. Whether it's your neighbor, family member or coworker. These people went and fought to protect our safety and security. They deserve our support.”- Judy Macias, Mile Hi Veterans Services volunteer
As a Mile Hi Veterans Services (MHVS) volunteer, Macias understands first-hand the complex support veterans need. The Denver-based nonprofit exists to improve the lives of veterans and their families. From creating community and hosting social events to covering food costs and financial gaps to paying respect during the holidays—they truly do it all.
A nonprofit with a dance floor
Located on the west side of Denver, MHVS is in the heart of a historically tight-knit Hispanic community with deep roots. Home to a rousing schedule of social events, from televised sporting events to live music and regular hamburger nights, the building has become a welcoming place for anyone who seeks community. "I first learned about Mile Hi Veterans Services through several of my friends and family who were members," said Macias. "It's a hub for veterans to socialize and create friendships, but all are welcome."
Macias and her husband, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, officially became members three years ago, and Macias quickly became a devoted volunteer. "We're there a lot," she joked. As the official event coordinator, Macias oversees member participation in off-site sporting events and plays. She also is on the New Year's celebration committee, cooks for Hamburger Night and plans the Valentines for Veterans event.
As a 100%-volunteer-run organization, the nonprofit relies on members like Macias. "Many vets are alone and need a place to go, and we're a very accepting community," she said. "Everyone works together. Whether that's cooking, cleaning up or organizing events, we get the job done."
The organization also participates in local Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades and purchases tombstone wreaths for Fort Logan, the Denver veterans’ cemetery. Members also contribute Honor Guard services and other patriotic offerings to local events.
Strengthening the safety net
Organizations like MHVS are crucial to the support of the 16.5 million veterans in the United States. Vietnam-era veterans, many of whom are aging, make up the largest group of veterans. For these older veterans and those with medical problems associated with their service, staying well is a priority. Often veterans can receive free or low-cost medical care through the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system. However, navigating the program and accessing care can be overwhelming because of its complexity and size, so MHVS serves as a bridge between the VA and veterans.
"We hold the veterans' hands through the process so they can get care," said Macias. "MHVS also helps cover their copays or prescriptions costs if they need monetary assistance."
Depending on their service history, veterans and their families may also receive other benefits, including caregiver support, educational and housing assistance, and burial benefits through the VA. MHVS provides resources to help members secure those benefits.
In addition to helping take care of members' day-to-day needs, the nonprofit is also looking out for veterans' futures.
Through its scholarship program, MHVS awards scholarships to veterans, their children and grandchildren. Whether finishing their education or embarking on a new journey, the scholarships give members opportunity to improve their lives.
Members fund the program through a golf tournament and fundraising drive. As with all of MHVS’ fundraising, everything raised goes back to the veteran community. The nonprofit was also a 2023 recipient of BOK Financial’s Guide the Giving, an employee-led grant making program. In fact, MHVS was one of only two nonprofits in Colorado selected from over 100 organizations nominated by employees to receive a $5,000 grant from the company.
Lest we forget
At its core, MHVS' mission is about treating veterans and their families with deep respect and dignity. This mission is heightened when members face illness and death.
"My uncle, a veteran, developed dementia," recalled Macias. "I remember the members coming to help my aunt. They brought meals, helped with overnights and sat with him so my aunt could run errands. They truly do whatever is needed."
Top of page image: Mile Hi Veterans Services receiving a 2023 Guide the Giving check delivered by BOK Financial employees.