Ryan Fowler & Dennis Smith are part of the Vet to Vet program. Courtesy photo/Maine vet to vet

For some veterans, returning home from service can be an isolating experience. And many feel that those who haven’t had a similar experience may not understand them. That’s where Vet to Vet Maine a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving Maine veterans steps in.

Formed in June 2018, Vet to Vet Maine connects veterans and offers support, companionship, a friend who understands, and a link to services to lonely and socially isolated veterans.

One of the main programs of the group is the Peer Companion Program. As of late 2023, that program had served 351 veterans.

The program, which connects veterans to one another, can be beneficial to the volunteers as well as those they visit. “I have been a member of Vet2Vet here in Portland,” said Vet2Vet volunteer Sam Kelley. “I am a Vietnam vet, and this is no doubt the best thing I have ever done for fellow vets. I am now visiting my third veteran who is a WW2 vet. I visit him weekly at an assisted living facility here in Portland. He and his family are most appreciative. We need more vets (volunteers) as there are many fellow vets who need our help.”

“Meeting with my veteran friend has filled a void since losing my grandparents, as I had lost my connection to that generation,”  an anonymous volunteer said. “My veteran shares stories from his time in the service, as well as his upbringing. He has provided firsthand accounts from history that I would have never been privy to. The opportunity to engage with him is as valuable to me as it is to him. I am grateful for this program.”

Becoming a volunteer is a straightforward process said Program Executive Director Maggie Catanese. “To become a volunteer for the Peer Companion program, you must be a veteran. Volunteers may sign up through our website or by contacting Vet2Vet directly. A training document is reviewed/signed, then the volunteer is matched with a compatible veteran in their area. Essential qualities for our volunteers are a willingness to give back, positive attitude, and compassion.”


Ensuring compatibility and support between veteran matches is paramount for the program’s success. “First Vet2Vet ensures that our matches are in the same geographic area,” ” Catanese said. “Second, we try and find common interests, whether it be gardening, fly fishing, baking, reading, or playing cribbage.”

Through a variety of activities and programs, Vet to Vet Maine fosters bonds and companionship among veterans. “The most popular outing between two veterans is sharing a cup of coffee and doughnut at a local establishment,” Catanese said.  In addition, she said, “The Vet2Vet staff routinely informs their volunteers of local events occurring that may be of interest.”

In addition to providing companionship, volunteers help make community connections, provide assistance in accessing benefits and services, and are supportive friends to older veterans navigating illness, aging, loss, or other challenges.

Vet to Vet Maine collaborates with various organizations and agencies to ensure veterans receive comprehensive support. “Collaboration with government agencies, social services, and other organizations has been essential in Vet2Vet’s ability to link Maine veterans to the services they need for their physical and mental health wellbeing,” Catanese said.

Vet to Vet Maine aims to make a profound difference in the lives of those who served.

“There is something in common between veterans. We need a whole lot more veterans to volunteer,” Kelly said.

For more information and for those interested in volunteering or seeking support, visit the websitehttps://vet2vetmaine.org/


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