Veterans Voice Suicide Concerns

Representatives of the organization Wellness Works spoke at this week’s South Pasadena Kiwanis Meeting

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasadenan.Com | Representative of Wellness Works spoke on Wednesday at the Kiwanis meeting in South Pasadena. From left are Wellness Works’ Board President Joseph Palesano, Vice President Camille Levee, and Board Member Randall Vuchsas and Kiwanis President Henry Wong.

It’s an alarming number that members of the Wellness Works organization hope will dwindle over time.

“I know, it’s a lot,” said Joseph Palesano, after telling a group in attendance at Wednesday’s Kiwanis Club meeting in the basement of Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena that 22 veterans lose their lives on average to suicide everyday.

That’s everyday he reminded those taking in his somber message. “It’s too many,” he said, following his presentation. “That’s why we’re trying to do something about it.”

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PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | Joseph Palesano, board president for Wellness Works, addresses audience at Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday.

Palesano, who served in the Navy, joined fellow veteran Randal Vuchsas, representing the Air Force, as they talked about their involvement with Wellness Works, based in Glendale, committed to ending veteran suicide.

Palesano is the organization’s board president and Vuchsas, a 2001 graduate of South Pasadena High School, also serves on the board. Introducing the pair was Camille Levee, Wellness Works’ vice president, who pointed out that there are more veteran deaths attributed to suicide than killed in action in wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Suicide is a battle veterans and their families cannot fight alone,” she said, explaining how donations to the organization are always welcome.

Founded in 1986, Wellness Works engages the community in restoring hope and a sense of wholeness of body and soul to veterans and their families. All veterans and families from every war or conflict they served are helped by the nonprofit.

“Through helping to restore hope and a sense of wholeness to veterans and their families, we envision helping to restore a sense of soul to our nation’s health care system,” reads a portion of the Wellness Works website.  “The larger impact being a world that understands that peace within one’s self creates peace in the world.”

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | Camille Levee is the vice president of Wellness Works, an organization that supports veterans. She talked about Wellness Works at Wednesday’s Kiwanis meeting in the city.

As a non-profit community resource, the organization that provides training, education and treatments for self-healing in an atmosphere of compassion and joy. Therapy, acupuncture, a writer’s group, mental health counseling are among the support efforts to veterans.

Services are provided to approximately 312 veterans per month on a $300,000 annual budget run by four staff members and countless volunteers.

“We help to find the resources they need,” said Levee, who is also a South Pasadena Rotary Club.

Wellness Works accepts donations to sustain critical programs and services in an effort to bring veterans suicide to an end.

The organization is planning a 72-hour vigil – “Not on Our Watch” – from Sept. 12-15 at the Verdugo Bridge and Park in Glendale to provide veterans with a variety of community services, including job booths and information on career development, as part of an expo.

Wellness Works can be found at 540 West Broadway in Glendale. For more information, call (818) 247-2062.