​Staff Shares Passion for Helping Veterans on Local Radio Program

“I come from a family of veterans. My dad was a veteran, my uncles were veterans and my two brothers were veterans,” Sonya Thompkins, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio Director of Program Operations for the Veterans programs said. “I really love helping people. That’s my passion. I’ve been doing it now for about 26 years.”

Last month, Sonya and Becky Carlino, Development Officer, shared their passion and knowledge for helping veterans on WINT Radio’s They Sacrificed for Us radio program.

The weekly radio show is hosted by Sue & Bob Fratino every Tuesday evening on 1330 AM and 101.5 FM in Willoughby, Ohio. The show is about veterans, the community veterans have served, and issues that affect veterans young and old.

Sonya talked about her personal passion for helping veterans, the unique needs of women veterans, employment services available for veterans, and the sense of belonging Volunteers of America gives veterans.

Sonya opened up the program by describing her personal connection with veterans.

She described how she oversees the supportive services and operations of veteran programs, providing services of support like, employment, housing, and assistance with helping veterans get back on their feet.

“A lot of our veterans who come into our programs are homeless. Some need treatment, like assistance with posttraumatic stress disorder, drug addiction or alcohol addiction. We are very sensitive and client-centric,” Sonya said. “We understand veterans are very proud people. Our staff is humble and welcomes them with open arms.”

Sonya went on to describe how female veterans often have unique needs that need to be met.

“For our women veterans, they come in with a whole host of issues because sometimes they suffer from military sexual trauma or moral injury, which deals with the soul sickness of being trained in the military to do things against your morals.”

Bob Fratino, co-host of the radio show, mentioned how veterans who come back from Afghanistan or Iraq can face a tough transition back to civilian life.

Sonya explained the art therapy program available to male and female veterans to help them constructively work through mental issues.

There are also resources to help veterans find employment, go to job fairs, help with resume writing and conduct mock interviews.

“A lot of veterans come home with no sense of belonging. They have nowhere to go. We try to be that starting point for those veterans. Some veterans, when they have no resources, they turn to drugs and alcohol to cope,” she said. “We want to get them back on their feet and uplift all veterans.”

Becky Carlino said there’s a lot of needs at the Domiciliary and throughout the programs.

“We like to work with companies and organizations and coordinate for them to volunteer to clean up the grounds or paint the walls. For individuals, you can help by organizing a collection of toothpaste, shampoo, or other care packages. The veterans that come in, often don’t have shampoo or razors,” she said.

For those looking to get involved without coming to a program, there is an upcoming fundraiser.

“We have our Faces of Hope fundraiser in November at the 100th Bomb Group and you’ll get to hear success stories from veterans of our programs.”

Sue Fratino chimed in and said that she and Bob have gone to the Faces of Hope fundraiser twice.

“The stories you hear are so amazing. You cannot leave with dry eyes,” she said.