The Upstate Warrior Solution (UWS) is a Greenville, South Carolina-based nonprofit organization that supports local military veterans and their families. The mission of UWS is to guide veterans through the process of self-empowerment by connecting them with resources and opportunities as well as inspiring the community to embrace them as valued neighbors and friends. Established in 2012, UWS began as an all-volunteer force focused on five pillars of support: education, employment, housing, healthcare and well-being for individual veterans and their families.
There are more than 100,000 veterans and family members living in Upstate South Carolina, and that number increases with every passing year. While there are a healthy number of resources in the region, UWS realized that it was difficult for local veterans to navigate between disconnected service providers. The region needed a “quarterback” that could bridge the gaps between national resources, local programs and the organizations serving veterans. UWS understood this problem and was willing to serve as the connection between community partners, corporations, nonprofits, government agencies and the veterans in need of support. However, this challenge could not be overcome by an all-volunteer workforce alone.
To effectively coordinate with community organizations and provide holistic, proactive support to local veterans and their families, UWS needed to transition from an all-volunteer group to a fully staffed organization. This was accomplished in 2014 when UWS became an official affiliate community of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national veteran-serving nonprofit. Through America’s Warrior Partnership’s signature Community Integration service model, UWS received a national grant that enabled it to hire salaried case workers and outreach coordinators.
The Community Integration service model also provided UWS with tools, training and best practice procedures for expanding the scope of their programs. This enabled UWS to formalize their services and conduct them on a broader scale.
The assistance and support provided by America’s Warrior Partnership helped UWS amplify its services across the region. Its services in 2018 center on three primary programs:
Outreach and Case Coordination Program: A diverse set of services that provides proactive, holistic support tailored to the unique needs of individual veterans and their families. UWS works with veterans on a one-on-one basis to help them improve the overall quality of their lives.
Fellowship Program: A six-month paid internship program for disabled veterans to learn the skills they need to excel in their professional and personal lives. Workshops, mentoring and on-the-job experience help participants enhance their community leadership, team leadership, interpersonal communication, public speaking and more.
Community Engagement Program: In addition to supporting veterans directly, UWS advocates for veterans by cultivating partnership within local communities. These partnerships lead to stronger resources and opportunities for veterans and their families.
In the three years after becoming an affiliate of America’s Warrior Partnership, UWS expanded to become a fully staffed organization with a physical presence in five Upstate counties, including offices in Greenville, Spartanburg and Clemson.
UWS has grown from engaging 106 veterans over the course of a year in 2014 to more than 1,500 veterans over the course of a year in 2017.
In 2017, at a cost of about $550 per veteran, UWS realized a total economic impact of more than $17 million. This achievement includes:
1,523 total veterans served
515 family members served
183 veterans assisted with education needs
257 veterans assisted with housing needs
335 veterans connected with employment opportunities
376 veterans enrolled in VA Healthcare
310 veterans enrolled in VA Benefits
As of August 2018, UWS has maintained relationships with more than 5,000 veterans, including 1,390 pre-9/11 veterans and 3,648 post-9.11 veterans, from Upstate South Carolina.
Under the guidance of America’s Warrior Partnership Community Integration service model, UWS was able to grow its grassroots efforts into a cornerstone of veteran communities across Upstate South Carolina. UWS now serves as a central hub for veterans and their families to connect with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive in their post-military careers and lifestyles.