INDIANAPOLIS — As the sun shines down on American Legion Post 64, veterans and supporters gather for the sixth annual Helping Heroes of America Freedom Ride and Music Festival.
“It’s a great event. Helping Heroes of America are just absolutely fantastic. They’ve raised a lot of money — Millions of dollars over the years and they’ve helped so many veterans,” Gordon Smith said.
Helping Heroes of America helps veterans sort out their past due bills, car payments, eviction notices and helps get them back on the right track.
The freedom ride and music festival is an opportunity for veteran case worker Heather Harvey to get out in the community and connect with veterans.
“I’m definitely not what you think of when you think of a federal government worker. Like meeting people out at events, they’re always like ‘Oh, OK, all right,’” Harvey said.
For nine years now, Harvey has worked for Congressman Andre Carson’s office. She says she fell in love with the job within the first week.
“Heather is one of those individuals who’s not a veteran, but yet again, is so passionate,” Smith said.
Smith is a Veteran Service Officer for the city of Indianapolis. Every time he reaches out to Harvey on behalf of a veteran, he says she does everything she can to assist them.
“She’s immediately on the problem that veteran may have and tries to solve it in a very short time. A lot of times it takes months and months, but she can see them move mountains,” Smith said.
Those reasons are part of why he nominated Harvey for the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.
“This is incredible. It’s just validation that our office is doing right by veterans,” Harvey said in response to winning the award.
Harvey admits she’s had to work even harder in her position because she’s not a veteran.
“I definitely had to earn my place at these community events and with the boards to prove I was there to be of service,” Harvey said.
As a caseworker, she spends time meeting with veterans about issues they are having with federal agencies and advises them on how to navigate those issues.
She tracks down records veterans need to obtain services. A lot of her time is spent working with veterans who are experiencing homelessness at organizations like HVAF.
Once she ran into a veteran she assisted who gave her a stuffed toy bear.
“He was like, ‘I’ve been holding on to this, waiting to give it to you.’ I had to cry because he was no longer homeless. He wasn’t staying there anymore. He was volunteering there. This bear is like my little touch point,” Harvey said.
The bear is just a small reminder of why she works so hard for Hoosier Veterans each and every day.
To nominate someone who’s making a difference in the community for the Jefferson Award for Multiplying good, click here.