Note: All of the narrative below was written several years ago – shortly after my husband died by suicide – and has yet to be updated. The plan is probably somewhat different now.
Background. The First Steps.
The Warrior Project is starting from scratch financially. There’s no bucket of money to fund or finance it, and nearly every penny will have to be raised from donations. Because it will take a while (months, if not a year or more) to go through the lengthy process of being established as a non-profit, it seems that most of the start up money will have to come from a Go Fund Me campaign on the internet.
The background work to get a project like this off the ground is far more time-consuming than most people might realize… it’s really going to be a full-time job for weeks and weeks before our doors even open. And that’s while I’m working full-time at my social work job, and also trying to keep our two shops (Heritage Collectibles and Heritage Books & Maps) open.
But I must make The Warrior Project a reality. I need to honor this great, big, larger than life, brilliant, grumpy, annoying, sensitive, funny, talented, and loving man who was the love of my life, my husband… my soul-mate. I cannot allow him to fade into obscurity, nor can I let his nightmarish struggle turn him into just one more statistic.
Nor can I ignore that the reason why my husband is dead is because of a combination of depression, chronic physical pain and multiple other health issues – and worst of all, the lack of hope. He was unable to manage his pain and hopelessness, despite giving an aura of a happy, self-assured man to most of those around us. He had everyone fooled; even I, who knew what he was living with, had no idea how bad it was.
In a previous life, before he moved in with me and before we were married, Johnny worked for 20 years as a subcontractor for the Navy, installing survival systems on Navy ships all over the world. He used to tell me that he helped build killing machines, and I helped save lives.
I could not save his life. But it seems fitting that I honor him by continuing to do what he believed I was good at – helping people and saving lives. I do not want to let him down.
The Next Steps.
The Warrior Project’s offices and drop-in center will be located in what is presently the furniture & art gallery space of our arts & antiques shop (Heritage Collectibles), at 189 Main Street in Lewiston. (I’ll just consolidate Heritage Collectibles into the main area, and eliminate the kind of inventory that doesn’t sell well even if it looks interesting.)
Therefore, The Warrior Project will have its own dedicated space with a classroom for workshops & support groups, a private counseling office, a reception area, and room for a library, music, television, coffee & snacks, and all sorts of low key activities & supports designed to help alleviate that nightmarish sense of being alone and having no hope, that so often contributes to suicide attempts … and completions.
Because that section of what is now Heritage Collectibles also has two private entrances, The Warrior Project will be separate from the shop; a door will be installed to prevent store customers from wandering into the center’s space inadvertently.
Although The Warrior Project will maintain the drop-in center, it will also have a strong outreach component because I know that while John might have gone to a support group or two if I had kicked his butt into it, he would not have used the facility in any other fashion without a buddy to follow up with him daily, and – I hope – to help him eventually find the courage to do the one thing that was too difficult for him – to talk about his pain and fear and hopelessness.
My goal is to make sure that people using the services of The Warrior Project never have to pay. Money should not be an object in saving a life.
There will be significant expenses associated with The Warrior Project, of course. We will need funds to cover the rent for the 1200 square foot space, utilities, office supplies, furniture & equipment, the library, activities, mileage, legal & accounting, maintaining a website, and the many costs associated with staffing The Warrior Project – we should have at least one independently licensed clinician/therapist, as well as both full-time and part-time on-site and outreach staff to meet the needs of those we will support – both the warriors themselves and their warrior families.
A grant-writer/fund-raiser will be critical so we can offer services without expecting people to pay; someone has to be in charge of managing finances & paying the bills; we will need someone with a good understanding of human resources to deal with hiring, insurances, and policies & procedures, etc; there has to be a person for the overall management of the organization; and someone has to get the word out by talking to medical personnel, social workers, possible funding sources, and others who can be sources of referrals or other help. All of these last responsibilities can be rolled into one person’s full-time job, if that one person has the right skill set.
I want to be very clear and above-board about this… I have managed a mental health agency in the past and have the skills needed to both develop and manage The Warrior Project on a day-to-day and on-going basis. At some point I will have to quit my full-time job as a social worker in order to take on the responsibilities of The Warrior Project, which means that some of the funds raised will be needed to cover a salary that I can live on.
The Specifics – or at least as specific as I can get right now…
If I’m to do this project, I want to do it right. As referred to above, my background includes decades of experience as a social worker; I’ve also been a grant-writer, and have run a mental health agency. So I have the skills to take on this project.
I just need to develop the funding, and find the time & emotional energy to do this project. And it seems that this project is hitting home with far more people than I wish it was… already, I’ve spoken with too many who have similar experiences – or are terrified they are about to have similar experiences – as I have.
The financial needs are pretty straightforward. There are staffing expenses, office & overhead expenses, and training, materials and other expenses. I’ve developed an Excel spreadsheet that calculates anticipated expenses over the next three years, and identifies the income needed to address those expenses.
Income is likely to come from 3 sources: individual donors, grants and a Go Fund Me campaign. Self-pay is an option but not one I want to pursue; neither do I immediately want to deal with the hassles of billing insurance companies for clinician/therapist time, although that’s a definite probability down the road. Also, any income in excess of expenses that Heritage Collectibles and Heritage Books & Maps generate will go towards supporting The Warrior Project. (For that reason, and because the two shops were Johnny’s retirement dream, we hope you will check them out, and hopefully find treasures to take home.)
The following weekly calendar of possible activities provides an outline of the staffing pattern needed.
By clicking on the link to the PDF above, you’ll find a draft calendar depicting the activities that could take place in one day at The Warrior Project’s offices/drop in center. The expectation is that most individuals using the center would be like my husband: “high functioning”, and would probably be at jobs during the Monday-Friday daytime hours. Therefore, it’s expected that use of center services would likely be higher on the weekends and before & after standard business hours. That may or may not be true, and The Warrior Project’s hours would adapt to reflect actual need.
Staff and peer volunteers will rotate being on call after hours, and will receive a stipend for that extra responsibility.
Services & support activities will of course be available for the family members who are trying desperately to support the deeply wounded individual, as well as those struggling themselves. We are all warriors in this devastating war.
If you are able to help with The Warrior Project in any fashion – by volunteering, with ideas, by writing or submitting articles to this website, by helping to set up the non-profit that this will eventually become, by fund-raising or donating financially, or in any other way – please contact me.
In memory of my beloved husband John K Snyder… 20 Sept 1956 – 21 Oct 2016.