Veteran Will Bailey had been in need of help for decades, but it was not until six months ago that he took the first step in becoming self-sufficient when he decided to introduce himself at the Yuma Veteran Affairs (VA) Center.
Bailey is a 1968-1971 Army veteran who served most of his time in Vietnam. At the VA Center, they offered him many services such as readjustment counseling and even got him enrolled at AWC to pursue a welding certificate, a trade he had 30 years of experience in but holds no official credentials.
Then, three months into his journey, his bike, the only mode of transportation he owned, went missing and was possibly stolen.”I didn’t realize what a partner it was until the bike was not there anymore,” Bailey said. Not wanting to ask for more, Bailey walked to most of his destinations in the severe Yuma heat.
It was not until Delphine Hamilton, outreach specialist at the VA center, noticed that Bailey was not coming to the center with his bike anymore that he told her it was missing.
Hamilton took action and together with MCCS, MCAS Yuma, AWC, State of Arizona Veteran Services, Vocational Rehab, YPIC, ACHIEVE, PPEP Inc, Goodwill of Central Arizona, GYEDC and others they were able to get Bailey a brand new bicycle. They accomplished this without Bailey’s knowledge.
The bike was presented to Bailey on Wednesday afternoon: “It was a very wonderful surprise and it was a great feeling,” Bailey said. “I’ve been riding it all over since then.”
“If you make a difference in one person’s life, it makes it all worthwhile,” added Jezreel Ramirez, Community Experience Partner at Goodwill.
Now Hamilton is working with Bailey to get appropriate housing through HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing or HUD-VASH, because he currently does not have a proper place to live.
“We just want to see him make it,” Hamilton said. “He’s 66 and I told him, ‘You’re never too old to do anything’.” In keeping with that sentiment, Bailey recently got a job at AWC as a work-study student. The veteran seems to be settling into the VA center well and is on his way to reaching his goals.
“There’s no comparison as to where I was before. I was going nowhere fast,” Bailey said. “If you’re a veteran, it’s to your benefit to get yourself known to the VA Center. It’s tough to get out of a rut, but the place I’m at now is a whole new ballgame.”
“Will has brought a lot of joy to us. We’re all very happy to see him,” Hamilton said, noting how Bailey brings produce for the VA workers to enjoy.
Hamilton, a veteran herself, said that Bailey was not the only veteran who had problems reaching out for help. “We want veterans to know that the community cares and the VA Center is their home.”
Hamilton said there are many vendors in Yuma who support veterans as well, such as the Daybreakers Cafe, a veteran -owned restaurant that catered the VA center’s open house.
“In the last few months, I’m overwhelmed with excitement about the growth and where we’re going to go in the future here in Yuma for veterans and military,” Hamilton said. “We want to thank the community and all the people we work with.”
Anyone wishing to contact the Yuma VA Center may call (928) 271-8700 and visithttp://www.va.gov/directory/guide/facility.asp?ID=5983 for more information. The center itself is located at 1450 E. 16th St, Suite 103.