Last week Morgantown runner Jamie Summerlin completed an epic 15 hour run around the Grand Canyon. He hits the pavement again this weekend for the Pittsburgh marathon.
In between the races, Summerlin is the president of the board at Operation Welcome Home, a service in Morgantown that helps veterans in the tough battles they face here at home.
"The suicide rate for our veteran population is increasing dramatically, especially post-911," Summerlin said. "The unemployment rate for veterans is still well over 25 percent the homeless rate for our female veterans is increasing daily; dropout rates for higher education, the numbers continue to increase."
The mission of Operation Welcome Home is to support veterans where they need it. Summerlin said veterans don't walk in an receive a registration number, but instead become a part of their family.
The Veterans On Call program matches veterans with temporary employment.
"Whether they just exited the military or they fell on hard times in between jobs," Summerlin said, "we're doing everything we can to be able to provide those resources for them and hopefully setting them up to get full time work down the road."
The center also launched a Camo to Cap program to give the community a tangible way to support veterans. That program collects school supplies for veterans.
"We took care of them when they were overseas, we sent them care packages and supported them and they've come back home and are trying to better themselves," Summerlin said. "We don't want them to feel like they've been forgotten and this is a way for our local community to be able to support them."
Summerlin said Operation Welcome Home does not replace long-established federal resources, but can instead respond more immediately to the needs of veterans in their own communities.
Some of the inspiration behind these initiatives comes from Summerlin's cross country run in 2012. A book about that run, Freedom Run, is now on sale in local bookstores.
Summerlin will be signing copies at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the University Town Center Saturday, May 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.