On average, Misti Isley DeCaire, 83, takes in a new veteran every day.
Each day, a man or woman wounded in body or spirit, staggers up her driveway asking for a meal, shelter, clothing and a little compassion, and she takes them in without question.
“We show them a compassion that the rest of the world does not seem to have,” said DeCaire, a 22-year veteran of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars.
DeCaire may be forced to close the doors at Veterans Helping Veterans at Ponderosa Manor, if she cannot raise $12,000 to pay the mortgage by the end of November.
“We are going to face foreclosure,” she said. “We are tying to raise as much as we can.”
Since 1993 when DeCaire first opened the doors on her 6,000-square-foot, 15-bed, 6-bath complex, she has taken in more than 5,500 veterans. Rarely seeing government funding, Isley relies solely on donations and her own savings, which is dry.
“We have never come to this point before,” DeCaire said of the debt.
With a monthly propane bill of $1,500 and a $1,000 electric bill, DeCaire was forced to pay utilities or the mortgage.
“To feed them and keep utilities going, I had to let the mortgage go,” she said. “We are very desperate now.”
A yard sale was held Saturday to raise funds, and another is planned for Nov. 22.
The nonprofit organization takes in veterans of all ages and wars. Veterans are offered three meals a day, clothing, a bed, a job and education if needed. All DeCaire requires is a veteran stay clean and sober.
“We give them a start — a hand up, not a handout,” she said.
DeCaire said she notices a difference in the veterans returning from the Iraq war over World War II, Korean or Vietnam veterans.
“When they come back, they don’t get any help,” she said. “This is a very bad war, people are coming back injured and they have a different cross to bear than we had, so they need a reentry program like this.”
A man returning from Iraq recently stayed with the organization and DeCaire noticed a frightening difference in him.
“He was in limbo, he could not do anything without us telling him to,” she said. “He did not know what was expected of him when he came back. He would just sit and stare at the table all day.”
Night manager Tim McIntyre said the man was like a dead piece of wood.
“He couldn’t take instruction or opinions,” said McIntyre, a 21-year veteran.
If the organization is forced to close, DeCaire wonders where veterans like this one would go.
“Do away with a place like this and who takes care of them?” DeCaire said. “Where are they supposed to go?”
Besides Ponderosa Manor, a 20-acre facility in Heber serves veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Although the facility has no utilities, more than 15 trailers are offered free to stay in.
Donations may be made at Compass Bank through their Veterans Helping Veterans account, or directly to Misti DeCaire at Veterans Helping Veterans, 212 W. Wade Lane, Payson, AZ 85541.
For information, call (928) 474-3920.