Bill York speaks at the introduction of Vets' Community Connections in San Diego. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Bill York speaks at the introduction of Vets’ Community Connections in San Diego. Photo by Chris Jennewein

A new public-private partnership is leveraging the free 2-1-1 hotline to match veterans with volunteers who can help them re-enter civilian life in the San Diego community.

Kari McDonough, co-founder of Vets’ Community Connections, said Thursday the program is aimed at San Diegans “who want to do more than say ‘thanks for your service’” to the many veterans in one of the largest military communities in the world..

“There is a role for you in veteran re-integration,” she said, urging San Diegans to call 2-1-1 to sign up to offer their expertise to veterans in need.

Vets’ Community Connections co-founders Kari McDonough (lef) and Doug Wilson.

Volunteers agree to answer calls or emails about education, health, business, recreation, the arts and other issues, based on their experience and available time. The 2-1-1 operators will connect veterans with volunteers.

“Our local veterans and their families aren’t looking for more websites — they’re looking for personal connections to their fellow citizens and business who can provide them with community-relevant answers,” said Jerry Sanders, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Sanders was one of 27 business, political and community leaders who attended the formal launch of the new service on Thursday at 2-1-1 San Diego’s new call center in Kearny Mesa.

Vets’ Community Connections is piloting the program in San Diego, Phoenix and South Bend, IN, with San Diego starting first.

“San Diego is far ahead of any region in what we’re doing for our vets and their families,” noted Bill York, executive vice president of 2-1-1 San Diego. He said 2-1-1 began taking veterans’ calls on Wednesday night.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.