As the holidays draw near, a local veterans group,which helps returning soldiers adjust to life off the battlefield, is praying for a miracle after falling on hard times.
For two years, Devil Dog USA Inc., claims it has helped approximately 4,000 individuals from all military branchestheir.
According to Gonzalo Duran, chief executive officer, the borough-based non-profit volunteer organization is the sole veteran-led volunteer group designed to help veterans adjust to civilian life and provide them vital necessities following their homecoming.
He explained upon returning from combat, veterans need a home and employment opportunities which are not always readily available, however this organization provides both.
A veteran himself, Duran served eight years as a Marine sergeant, conducting an Iraq tour in 2008 and serving nine months in Fallujah.
Returning to his hometown, Duran realized there was nothing in the Bronx for veterans to help transition them back into civilian life.
A Fordham University student majoring in health science, Duran started a program helping 20 veterans fill out intake forms to aid in accommodating their transitional needs inside the university’s libraries.
In November 2013, Devil Dog USA Inc., officially opened at 4555 Third Avenue in Belmont; transitioning from a college library to a 2,000 square foot store front property within a year’s span.
Since then, they have provided clients with many services including recreational activities running the gamut from golfing and skydiving. to art and music programs.
In addition, this summer Duran, along with others renovated his late father’s home to house 20 returning vets.
The organization’s mission is for all veterans to be properly housed, clothed, educated, employed, and able to receive the benefits they deserve.
In recognition for his organization’s work, Duran was one of three honorees venerated at the Veterans Recognition Luncheon held by the Bronx Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, November 19.
“I served my country proudly, I have done so much for the Bronx and I hope that it can be reciprocated. In the two years, I have used my own funds and now I am asking the community for contributions which are tax deductible. Every penny is going toward the organization,” Duran said.
However, the non-profit has lost its main sponsor and now faces the likelihood of closing.
If they do not raise $45,000 by January 15, they will shut down the first of March.
Duran and his organization are now fighting to stay alive for the new year through the ‘Save Devil Dog USA Inc.,’ fundraiser.
Duran has reached out to Senator Gustavo Rivera, Senator Jeffrey Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and Councilman Ritchie Torres for help.
“A few of our clients have shown their support in this effort, but there is very little that they can do,” he expressed. “We’re trying to finish all the programs for this month and roughly by December 20 we will stop taking new clients for a few weeks. ”
For additional information, speak with Duran at (516) 515-0240 or email him at ceo@d