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$20,000 DONATION

Cove Leader-Press

A Central Texas nonprofit which provides peer-to-peer counseling for local veterans received a special delivery from Dallas on Tuesday morning in Gatesville. U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Polly Widenkopf (Ret.) presented a check for $20,000 to Maureen Jouett, executive director of Bring Everyone in the Zone in a ceremony at the office of Coryell County judge John Firth. Widenkopf is the executive director of the Dallas-based nonprofit organization ReserveAid, a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides financial support via grants to reservists and National Guard members currently deployed or who have recently returned from deployment. Since its beginning in 2006, the organization has helped 5,000 Reserve and National Guard members, and disbursed $6.5 million in funds. Bring Everyone in the Zone came across ReserveAid’s radar after a chance encounter Widenkopf had with Ret. Marine Lt. Col. Richard Beil (Ret.), who is part of the Leatherneck Club of North Texas. Beil started operations via the Leathernecks in Central Texas in April. “I happened to meet Lt. Col. Biel at the Metroplex Marine council meeting nad he gave a very quick presntation about what’s going on down here, and I thought, ‘That’s the type of thing we want to be a part of in Texas,’” Widenkopf said on Tuesday morning. “It’s my honor to come down here from Dallas today and present this check for $20,000 for peer-to-peer support. Theres’s probaby no better thing that you can be doing than peer-to-peer support, because the veteran is speaking with another veteran.” With Bring Everyone in the Zone, Jouett pairs up veteran counselors with fellow veterans in need of help with combat stress related problems. The $20,000 will go a long way to help in the organization’s efforts. Bring Everyone in the Zone belongs to the Military Veteran Peer Network and has been in operation in the local area since 2008, conducting weekly peer-to-peer counseling sessions. “This effort is designed in part to prevent veterans from becoming homeless by addressing the issues that may lead to marital problems, substance abuse and, ultimately, homelessness,” Jouett said. Jouett also said her group also seeks volunteers. “We need people to help move furniture, vacuum, stuff envelopes, you name it.” In Copperas Cove, Bring Everyone in the Zone holds weekly peerto-peer counseling sessions every Wednesday at VFW Post 8755 on Veterans Avenue, and holds sessions every Thursday in Killeen at the organization’s location on Second Street. Additional counselors are needed for both locations and to provide additional services in Gatesville and the northern Coryell County area. “We are seeking combat veterans and spouses of combat veterans from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan willing to sacrifice one hour per week to help their fellow veterans,” Beil said. “We need experienced spouses on board because veterans in crises don’t go through it alone – their families go through it as well.” Also participating in the effort is the Coryell County Sheriff’s Department. Mental Health Deputy Leon Ingersoll, a combat veteran himself, said, “No law enforcement officer wants an encounter with a veteran to escalate out of control. We in the department believe this is an approach that has been needed for years, and we want to be a part of it.” County officials have agreed that this effort is long overdue. “This entire project and plan was created by (Lt. Col.) Beil and his Leatherneck Club, rather than by the county. However, he’s done such a great job of putting together the partnership of organizations to get this done, I’ve appointed him my Special Veterans Advisor,” County Judge John Firth said. “The Commissioners’ Court and I have adopted this as our number one priority in veteran affairs. I hope all citizens and the business community will put their support behind this effort. As a veteran myself, I also ask every veteran organization to lend their unqualified support.” Bring Everyone in the Zone has also combined forces with Operation Stand Down Central Texas to help address veteran homelessness. During OSDCT’s event in October, Bring Everyone in the Zone will have peer counselors on hand for veterans. For further information on the organizations involved in this project or to become a volunteer counselor, email Beil at

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