After an 18-month battle to acquire a 501(c)(3) designation, American Veterans First (AVF) has finally achieved their goal of becoming a tax-exempt public charity.
The veteran and first responder refuge that CEO Duke Cooper of Oakdale created around this time two years ago has seen many faces come and go, including those serving on the board of directors. There has been a restructuring and remodeling going on at AVF and Cooper said he wants the community to know that they are back and better than ever. The facility is in Riverbank, but with Cooper at the helm, there are many Oakdale people involved as well. With the accomplishment of obtaining the tax exempt status and the addition of new ACF Board President, Kevin Fox, there is excitement for new programs, grant funding and much more.
“Our brand out there, AVF, I am very proud of that,” stated Cooper. “And now we made some changes last month that really needed to be done and now that we have the 501(c)(3) it took a thousand pounds off my shoulders. I can take a deep breath.”
Among many programs like the coat and blanket drive or the care package drive for active duty service men and women overseas, AVF has been active in helping veterans within the community. Fox and Cooper collaborated and created Sail to Recovery, also known as Women in the Wind, for women in the military, female veterans, female first responders and military/veteran/first responder wives.
“That (Sail to Recovery) is just one example of the uniqueness of AVF and there is so much more that they are doing,” said Fox. “There is such a need and these guys are filling it.”
The first board meeting after receiving the 501(c)(3) status was held last week where they discussed the vision of AVF, where they are and where they want to be, as well as how to stay vibrant within the community. They expressed that along with this new status there is also a lot of responsibility that comes with it.
“So there is a lot of responsibility that comes along with that which is why the restructuring and order needs to take place,” added Fox of the new 501(c)(3) designation. “It allows us to go after funding for special needs beyond chairs. It really opens a ‘whole new world’ for lack of a better word for what we might be able to accomplish. It really is a game changer.”
They are actively searching for new board members to join AVF and eventually may be looking for staff to manage the day to day activities.
In a recent press release Cooper noted, “We are excited for the possibilities and impact we are going to make in the Veterans community across the Central Valley.”
Over the past couple of years, AVF has provided reconditioned mobility assist chairs to veterans, clothing and blankets in the cold winter months to veterans without a home, secured and installed cooling units in the hot summer months, repaired leaking roofs in the wet winter months, collected and shipped hundreds of care packages for deployed service members abroad, provided temporary financial assistance to help veterans make ends meet, and organized family-oriented social events to reconnect veterans to civilian life.
Under the Internal Revenue Service code, Section 170, the tax-exempt status will now allow American Veterans First’s donors to deduct contributions they make to the organization.
“We have learned over the last 18 months about the unique needs of the veterans’ community, through the lens of that community we serve,” expressed Fox. “We are looking toward the future for the best possible ways we can make an impact. This milestone is a catapult to assist in securing funding to do that.”