On a recent 75 degree Saturday, a group of 80 volunteers from the International Franchise Association Convention skipped the allure of The Strip for what some might call the darker side of Las Vegas. These volunteers arrived a day early for the convention in order to give back to those in need.
The event, appropriately named “Franchising Gives Back,” is part of the nonprofit International Franchise Association Educational Foundation that, in addition to providing thousands of dollars in high school and college educational scholarships each year, chooses a community project that allows these convention attendees a once a year chance come together and make a difference.
This year’s event was no easy task. It involved cleaning, scraping, and painting the exterior of the Veterans Village, a once run-down 125-unit motel on Las Vegas Boulevard just a block south of Charleston. In addition, the volunteers also formed an assembly line to fill 500 emergency toilet kits and placed personal hand written notes of love and encouragement within each one. The event was coordinated through the Las Vegas United Way which helped to identify the community project and acquire the needed paint and cleaning supplies
Jeff Tews and Susan Rather, co-owners of a BrightStar Senior Home Care franchise in Madison, Wisc., have participated in the Franchising Gives Back program four years in a row. “It brings personal satisfaction,” said Tews.
Each participant in the Franchising Gives Back program not only donates their time, but also contributes $100 to the fund. Member companies of the International Franchising Association contribute to the nonprofit fund throughout the year.
“Veteran’s Village is a respite for those who have served our country and are themselves in need of assistance,” said Arnold Stalk, its president and chief executive officer. “It serves as a crisis intervention center and provides connections to medical and mental health services, job referral and training.”
Residents of the Village range from families with newborn babies to WWII. The average length of stay is six months to one year but many guests have made this their permanent residence.
Stalk started the Veterans Village after the death of his father Seymour Stalk, a former yeoman in the Navy, who after discharge saved enough money to buy a paint store and build a life for his family. Three years ago, with the help of federal and state grants and donations from private companies, Stalk turned the motel into Veterans Village, and the doors to the lobby have remained open 24/7 ever since.
The former motel lobby now serves as a triage center and anyone who enters, whether they are a veteran or not, receives some kind of assistance.
Since May of 2012, Veterans Village has provided more than 132,100 meals, created 306 full-time and 152 part-time jobs, and assisted in more than 10,200 housing referrals.
Stalk has plans to build another 250 units on top of the current 125 units by 2016.