By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Jeri Diehl

Veteran’s Resource Center Gwinnett
By Beth Volpert

The Gwinnett County Veterans Resource Center is growing along with the need for services at a rate that mirrors the national need for information and community based veterans’ resources including quality support for veteran families.

Targeted focus identifying the unique needs of our heroes has kept pace with the number of veterans and family members making requests of recently appointed GC Veterans Resource Center Director, Jeri Diehl. The initiative began as a result of Diehl’s becoming the Charter Commander of the Gwinnett County Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary in 2011.. “Several years ago my husband, Bob, USMC Vietnam Combat Veteran, needed information concerning veteran benefits and resources. There was nothing easily found that was community based. It was DAV Chapter Commander, Danny Pagan, who initially recruited Diehl to Charter the DAV Auxiliary for Chapter 90 beginning the series of events that eventually led to her newest position as Director of the GC Veterans Resource Center. “She is stepping up to the plate,” says Pagan. “As a country, we are losing patriotism; Jeri understands what veterans are about.”

Diehl was recruited by Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services Executive Director, Ellen Gerstein, to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA joining the Coalition in October, 2012. Diehl’s first order of business was to initiate interest in developing a Gwinnett County Veterans Resource Center. Gerstein and Diehl drafted a proposal outlining the need for a community based veterans resource center, promoted by Gerstein, ultimately gaining approval from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

“We were given temporary space in the same building as the Coalition in February 2013. Ten months later, amidst growing pains and no certainty of stability, we received permanent space approval,” says Diehl. She completed her VISTA year in November 2013 and accepted Ellen Gerstein’s appointment as Director of the GC Veterans Resource Center starting January 2014. In February, the center moved ‘upstairs’ and began welcoming warriors. “I am overwhelmed at the quality location Gwinnett County is providing in honor of the sacrifice made by our veterans and their families.” The permanent space allows the Gwinnett County Veterans’ Resource Center to attract collaboration connecting crucial resources including offices for the Gwinnett County Disabled American Veterans & Auxiliary. In addition to community based veteran specific information DAV Service Officers are available to file a variety of VA Claims.

“We are especially grateful to the Gwinnett Coalition for providing AmeriCorps VISTA, Ebonie Brown, serving from April 2014 thru March 2015, to help develop programs & structure within the project scope.”says Diehl. Serving as both GC Veterans Resource Center Director and DAV Auxiliary Commander, Diehl would like to make certain that the public understands that DAV Auxiliary membership is open to all veteran family and friends. Membership in the DAV or Auxiliary is not required to volunteer at the GC Veterans Resource Center.

Currently operating under the umbrella of the Gwinnett Coalition, the GC Veterans Resource Center is positioning to become a separate non-profit. “In the meantime, we will continue to build our range of services. The unique needs of veterans and their families present themselves each day” says Diehl. “We are responding by seeking volunteers who can fill those specific needs.”

Veterans, veteran family members needing veteran specific information and those willing to volunteer with the Gwinnett County Veterans’ Resource Center are encouraged to email: info@gcveterans.orgor call 770-828-8652.