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New vet-led organization in Janesville connecting services for veterans

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- A new organization in Rock County is hoping to fill a gap in services for veterans.

Michael and Meaghan Fitzgerald started the Veterans First Foundation in February.

"Helping veterans has always been something that we've wanted to do, you know, being veterans ourselves," Michael said.

The couple both served in the military before they were married.

Volunteers help with things like home repairs and utility bills. They've also started mentorship programs for veterans who've recently left service and companion programs for older ones.

The group hopes to be a resource for a veteran when they need help connecting to the right service in the community.

"Getting out of the military, it's a hard transition," Meaghan told 27 News. "You kind of feel lost. You don't have the people you've served with. So we want to be those people who can help."

This week, the Fitzgeralds are at Rick Teed's home in Janesville, helping him with some home repairs he hasn't been able to get to himself.

"Just a lot of things that I fell behind on. I couldn't keep up with, with the daily, everyday struggle of everything else," Teed said. "It's much appreciated for what they're doing for me."

Teed and his daughters have gone through a difficult couple of years, so the help came at the right time.

"It's hard to ask for help. You know, you typically want to be the one that helps others," he told 27 News.

Rock County officials say there are 12,000 to 13,000 veterans in the county, some who are homeless and in desperate need of services. The organization hopes to fill a void in those resources and help connect veterans with the groups available in the community.

"We can work cohesively as one unit and function that way," Michael said. "So, if we don't provide a particular service, then we know that contact that provides that service."

The Fitzgeralds also hope to build a tiny house community for veterans in Janesville, which would give the homeless a place to live and better access to services. They hope to model it off similar efforts in Racine and Milwaukee.

Right now though, they're focusing on reaching out and connecting with as many people as they can and raising money to support the projects.

If you're a veteran who needs help or if you'd like to help support the organization or volunteer your services, click here to visit the Veterans First Foundation website.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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