Calm Waters, Recipient

In 2003, Krystal Lohff attended the “Welcome Home” party of a young veteran returning from active-duty service. Unbeknownst to her, that young veteran would eventually become her husband. The connection was immediate, and their strong bond would lead to years of marriage and four beautiful children. The inspiration to create a community-first veteran retreat was inspired by her husband’s journey transitioning back to civilian life. While Lohff continued her graduate degree in social work, her husband struggled to find his place outside the army. “He was struggling not only with things like staying organized, but also with things like depression and trust,” Lohff said.Branded blue water bottle on an American flag background. When he began seeking care at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, they both hoped he would have an easier time. However, they soon ran into difficulties scheduling appointments. “He had to drive an hour and 20 minutes to his appointments, and they would call at the last minute and cancel because the therapist wasn’t available,” Lohff explained. “It felt aggravating and not fair. And it happened a lot.” Inspired to try to make a difference for veterans like her husband, Lohff pursued employment at the VA Hospital and was excited to do her part. During her years there, she struggled to make the impact she desired. “The VA is pulled in a lot of different directions, so my hands felt tied to a degree,” she said. Armed with a vision and desire to create change, Lohff decided to launch Calm Waters in 2020 to create the kind of comprehensive veteran assistance program and retreat center she’d been dreaming of. Meeting veterans’ needs Today, Calm Waters helps provide access to necessary resources that assist veterans in more easily reintegrating back into civilian life. “We’re focused on building a community that veterans no longer have access to when they get discharged,” Lohff explained. Resources include mental health services, case management assistance, help with medical insurance and food-insecurity aid in the form of free food giveaways, gift cards to local restaurants and help with paperwork for Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). EBT is an electronic system that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants use to pay for food. Additionally, Calm Waters focuses on helping both veterans and employers make connections that result in successful employment. “There can be a high turnover for employment with this group, so we work with employers and provide education on hiring veterans and how to be sensitive to their needs,” Lohff said. “This education fosters greater hiring opportunities and more long-term retention of our veterans.” “We also try to make sure the veterans have access to a phone line,” she continued. “In our experience, one big barrier with those experiencing financial issues and/or homelessness is they might have access to a phone only a month at a time. When they need access to a phone, we will help support them in that way so that employers have a way to contact them. We’ve also done monthly bus passes so they can get to where they need to go.” How fundraising giveaways help get the community involved To make its work possible, gain support and spread awareness, Calm Waters hosts a fun golf tournament for members of the community and local businesses. This year, the participants’ swag bag will contain fundraising giveaways, such as a sport bottle with a first aid kit, imprinted with the Calm Waters logo. “All the money we make will go back into Calm Waters,” Lohff explained. “This is a great way for local businesses to sponsor us and offer hope to the veterans we serve.” Overall, Lohff is excited to continue to support veterans in making meaningful strides in their lives. “I think the biggest thing is giving the veterans a safe place to focus on themselves,” she said. “We want them to have that brotherhood they had in the military. That built-in support system is what many of the veterans state they miss the most.”

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