Veterans United surprises five charities with $10,000 gifts

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COLUMBIA - The Veterans United Foundation surprised two local organizations with $10,000 Friday, ending its 'Week of Giving' on a high note. 

Throughout the week the foundation gave out $10,000 prizes to five different charitable organizations in Columbia. 

Those recipients were True North, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri, Coyote Hill Children's Home, Food Bank for Central and Northeast Columbia and Rainbow House. 

Heather Dimitt-Fletcher, from Big Brothers Big Sisters, said it was one of the best Christmas gifts she could've received. 

"For the past couple years we haven't received any funding for our school-based mentoring program, but it's our fastest growing program," Dimitt-Fletcher said. "This will go a long way towards helping to support that program."

The Veterans United Foundation was formed by the employees of Veterans United home Loans in 2011. Employees can choose to contribute a percentage of their paychecks to the foundation, and that money then goes towards helping various organizations. 

Bryant Chambly, a senior loan officer with Veterans United and a board member of the foundation, said it is worth every penny. 

"When you have employees who have a heart for giving and want to be a part of contributing to the community," Chambly said. "That's very important."

Recipients of the donations are also ecstatic to get the help. 

"It just means everything to us," Food Bank Executive Director Lindsay Lopez said. "If it weren't for the generosity of our donors and our corporate partners we simply could not do this work, so we are just incredibly thankful for the support." 

Board of directors president for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Chris Ashton, said the employees donating the money themselves makes it all the more special. 

"It's exciting, especially from the Veterans United employees who donated their individual money to something like this," Ashton said. "It's tremendous and we value and appreciate it."

Since the foundation was founded, employees have given more than $30 million; and a good amount of that has been from Boone County. 

"This year alone Veterans United has contributed at least one million dollars locally to organizations and charities," Chambly said. "Since 2011 at least 5 and a half million dollars in the Columbia area alone." 

Much of that money was in high need. 

"We are fortunate that we live in a very educated, in some ways very affluent community, but sometimes that also prevents us from seeing the depth of need," Dimitt-Fletcher said. "We do have an extreme amount of need in our community."

Chambly said that's why the organizations to receive the money are so gracious when they do.

"Some of the reactions have been great," he said. "They just don't expect that kind of charity from organizations here, especially when they're not requesting anything like that."