Lorena Villa has been passionate about healthcare services since high school, when she volunteered at her community hospital. “I became interested in rehabilitation at that point after volunteering in stroke recovery for about 4 years, until I graduated from high school and entered the military,” Lorena said.
So, it only seemed natural that she would use her G.I. Bill to go to college and become a rehabilitation therapist after separating from the U.S. Army in 2001. “My main goal was to work with my fellow veterans suffering with traumatic brain injury, and mental health disorders.”
As a self-employed rehabilitation therapist who works with immunocompromised patients, Lorena works in nursing homes and assisted care facilities in California. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March, her program was deemed non-essential and closed until further notice. After nearly a month without work, Lorena needed help and turned to the PenFed Foundation for assistance after reading about the COVID-19 Relief Program in a veterans-focused newsletter.
“I think a lot of people forget that it isn’t just one person being affected by a financial situation. I have a family of 5 which depends on my income.”
Lorena received assistance towards her mortgage from the PenFed Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief Program, which launched on March 17 as the first national veteran’s service organization relief program. This enabled her to use her emergency funds towards her children’s school, which she otherwise would not be able to afford.
“I have not come across any other resources available to self-employed veterans as myself. I don’t see any other organizations like PenFed Foundation offering assistance next day, as this was. I still can’t believe how quickly my file was reviewed, and the funding forwarded directly to my mortgage company.”
Lorena is still unsure of what’s next during the COVID-19 pandemic and how long she will be without work—the facility she works in advised her to call back for an update on May 1. In the meantime, she is looking into new work-from-home opportunities, like a medical interpreting licensing course, which may help her receive some income in the interim.
Lorena is used to being a donor and supporting veterans as much as possible, and knows that she’s not the only veteran who is going through this. “Having experienced being a giver and supporter, I know that it feels better to give than to receive, but in these trying times it’s acceptable to get a break when you need it!”
And, Lorena also has a message for those who can donate to help right now: “I think it is very important for organizations and individuals who are able to be supportive in this time to do so generously. I know I am not the only hardworking veteran quarantined at home right now, instead of being out in the workforce utilizing my many skills. Life is ever changing, and we never know when we will be on the receiving end of financial assistance.”
Together, we’ve helped more than 470 veterans and service members experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 so far. With your help, we can serve even more. Please consider making a donation today at give.penfedfoundation.org/covid19.