The Veterans Guest House was established in the early 1990s when Chuck Fulkerson and Dick Rhyno, two Reno veterans, noticed some veterans and their families were sleeping in their cars outside of the Veterans Administration Medical Center. One example: A mom from Bishop, Calif., spent the night with her kids in an automobile while her husband was receiving treatment in the hospital’s intensive care unit. She didn’t have money to stay in a motel and didn’t know anyone local who could help with lodging. Today, the home, at 880 Locust St., serves thousands of guests in a normal year. Sylvia DuBeau, a Navy veteran, is the Veterans Guest House CEO; she uses her 10 years of nonprofit leadership experience to assist military personnel, veterans and their families. Learn more at www.veteransguesthouse.org.
How did you get your position at the Guest House?
I was in the Navy, stationed in San Diego, and heard about the position up in Reno through a friend of a friend. I’d never been to Reno before. I flew up and interviewed, and fell in love with the Guest House and the Reno community. I was offered the job, and I took a leap of faith, and here I am, two years later.
What is the Veterans Guest House about?
The Guest House is about promoting the health and well-being of veterans and their families. We do this by offering free overnight lodging, transportation and help with basic needs. We also have a kitchen and dining room with a free continental breakfast each morning, and provide a prepared dinner each evening. We also have a pantry with snacks. We’re just like Mom’s house; we have everything to take care of our guests.
How do you get the word out about the Guest House?
We have a lot of events. We work closely with all the medical facilities in town. We rely a lot on word of mouth, and we’re happy to come and talk to any group. We have some limited forms of advertising, but letting people know that we are here to help them is our most difficult challenge.
How is the Guest House funded?
We are 100% philanthropically funded. We’re proud to say that we do not receive any government funding. It’s the Reno community that enables us to do the things we do. We have an annual Radiothon to raise funds. We have a fashion show every other year. We also have a raffle; it’s Army versus Navy in a rival raffle. We’re currently selling tickets. With a $25 ticket, participants support soldiers and their families while having a chance to win $5,000. There’s a second prize of $2,500, and five chances to win $500. On Saturday, Dec. 10, during the Veterans Guest House’s annual Army-Navy football party, the winning tickets will be drawn at halftime. You need not be present to win. (Tickets can be purchased at veteransguesthouse.org/rival-raffle).
What do you see for the future of the Guest House?
I think that we’re entering what a lot of people are projecting as a very difficult economic time. What we are seeing with rising gas prices is that when things cost more, people go without the care they need. We’re seeing guests with more complex needs and greater needs overall, and that means we have to be here and be ready for them, and be ready to do more for the vets than we’ve done in the past.