With less than one-half of one percent of Americans currently serving within the Armed Forces, we sometimes forget this infinitesimal population of patriots protects the remaining 99.5% of the population. Perhaps even more concerning, many within the roughly 19 million veteran population (less than 10% of the adult population), suffer from a variety of issues directly related to their service.
While many veterans haven’t suffered the catastrophic and debilitating injuries due to actual combat, we’ve come to witness within the mainstream media or on social media they, nevertheless, suffer with homelessness, addiction and mental illness.
Many are simply regarded as the “forgotten veteran” because their injuries aren’t easily visible to the naked eye.
Thankfully, veterans like Marty Weber are stepping up and reaching out to their brothers in uniform, recently donating 36 acres of wooded property in Barnegat Township. The donated property will be known as Jeff’s Camp, in memory of Weber’s late business and life partner Jeff Poissant, who passed away at 56, 4-years ago.
The land will house a group home, rehabilitation facility and quiet retreat for homeless veterans struggling with addiction and mental illness.
At the recent dedication ceremony held in Barnegat Township, New Jersey, Weber signed a letter of intent to donate the 36 acres of wooded property. After all the legal documents were signed and sealed, Weber reflected about his decision he and his late partner had made before Jeff’s untimely death in 2017, due to bladder cancer.
He said they had always envisioned using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans. He felt compelled to realize that dream following Poissant’s death, which Weber believes could have been prevented if the Veterans Administration had approved bladder replacement surgery for him.
“We thought about a cemetery for the vets,” said Weber, adding that he had been offered $3 million for the commercially and residentially zoned property by a developer. “But this is going to keep them alive.”
Weber, however, wasn’t exactly sure how he would use the property to benefit veterans, until a chance meeting by fellow veteran Keith Petterson suggested he contact Paul Hulse, director of Just Believe, a group he founded in 2019 that operates Toms River’s Code Blue warming shelter at Riverwood Park.
Hulse, in fact, was actually looking to create some type of facility specifically for veterans.
Good News Network: Veteran Donates 36 Acres of Land to Build Retreat for Homeless Vets Struggling With Addiction https://t.co/3btLlCDWwt— Lydia Cornell (@LydiaCornell) June 7, 2021
“They made a phone call and this is what happened,” Petterson said.
Weber and Hulse pooled their collective skills together in creating their vision for what was to become Jeff’s Camp, which would include an 8,000-square foot building just off Route 72. The camp would also include a treatment facility operated by a professional healthcare provider, along with a thrift store run by Just Believe.
Chief medical officer, Dr. Joseph Savon, said the combination of having an on-sight treatment facility along with permanent residential housing and retreat for homeless veterans, all within a natural outdoor setting, is extremely beneficial in reducing anxiety and stress for struggling veterans dealing with substance and alcohol abuse.
“I think the combination of things, the thrift store, counseling on the premises, whole groups in the woods, all those things, it’s just tremendous,” Savon said.
The thrift store, like one already operated by Just Believe in Toms River, would employ the veterans living on the property, stocking and selling the donated clothing and other merchandise, as a means of reintegrating them into society through regular work and interaction with the public, Hulse said.