Save A Vet Now
Anthony Vivaldi supports troubled veterans by creating and selling his art.
“Thank you for your service” is an action statement for Anthony Vivaldi.
In 2019 Vivaldi, age 78 and a Vietnam vet, decided to put his art to work for veterans.
At first he decided to organize a one-man art show and donate the proceeds to a veterans group.
“While researching where to donate, I stumbled upon literature about the veteran suicide crisis,” he says. “Once I understood the severity of this problem, it became my focus.”
As a result of his study, he founded Save A Vet Now (SAVN), a nonprofit that targets exclusively veteran suicide awareness and prevention.
The magnitude of the problem is regularly noted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, in November 2020 the department released data stating that the average number of veteran suicides per day was more than 17, and that only counted those who had sought services from them.
Vivaldi’s work with veterans has led him to believe to that a high number of troubled veterans shun the VA services for a variety of reasons and decide to “go it alone.” Save A Vet focuses on this group.
“Our efforts are intended to supplement the VA efforts,” he says.
However, early on Vivaldi realized that going it alone himself was not the best way to approach the issue. He partnered with Coastal Horizons Center, Inc., an existing group offering free and confidential mental health services, including to those experiencing suicide ideation, to people in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and other southeastern North Carolina counties.
Elizabeth S. Redenbaugh, development director at Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. says, “Fifty years ago, our organization, now one of the largest nonprofits in southeastern North Carolina, began as a group to combat drug addiction. We have offices in 50 counties and over 600 employees.”
Moreover, the mission of the group has expanded over the years. Redenbaugh says, “We now offer wraparound services, that is, whatever the person needs, we strive to provide. When someone comes in, they may need a variety of services in addition to the problem they present initially.”
Redenbaugh met Vivaldi in September of 2019 at a fundraiser. He offered to sell art to donate the proceeds to Coastal Horizons Center for a scholarship for veterans.
“Now, thanks to that partnership with Save A Vet Now, when vets come to us for services, if there might be a problem with money, the scholarship money raised by Save A Vet Now can cover it,” Redenbaugh says. “If there is not enough through them, we look for other grants.”
She confirms that confidentiality is a benefit that vets seek when they use the services at Coastal Horizons instead of going to the VA.
Redenbaugh adds, “Tony is a complete pleasure to work with. He has a servant’s heart and the passion to make a difference in the lives of vets and the perseverance to succeed. He walks the walk and genuinely wants to give hope.”
Vivaldi notes that the veterans outreach program is open to any veterans suffering from the contributors to suicide ideation.
“They need only provide proof of their service to receive confidential treatment with no out-of-pocket expense,” he says.
Vivaldi also uses his art to help others learn to heal through art. A few years after he moved to southeastern North Carolina from Indianapolis in 2005, he reignited his interest and efforts in watercolor and photography after the encouragement of friends. He began teaching and selling his paintings.
“I find art to be very relaxing, important for troubled souls,” he says. “I’ve been told that the expression of what is in your mind through physical manual dexterity is unique and creates new ways of seeing and experiencing one’s environment.”
Although he no longer teaches at the Cape Fear Community College or other local art schools, Vivaldi sought out an opportunity to use his art directly with those who wanted to learn to use art to heal in Brunswick County.
Mary Beth Livers, executive director of Brunswick Arts Council, says, “Tony reached out to Brunswick Arts Council, and we began our dialogue and went from there. He made a presentation to our board of directors late in 2020 regarding his Save a Vet Now program, the partnership with Coastal Horizons, and the need to help with ongoing arts programs for our veterans. Our board of directors were impressed and began to find a way we could all work together to help each other as we moved through this pandemic, recognizing the healing process we are all shifting as a community and culture.”
Vivaldi used his photographs, many of the waterways and other peaceful scenes, to teach in the sessions he has already conducted. His own art can be found at Blue Moon Gift Shops Wilmington, and all proceeds go to Save A Vet Now.
As to the future, Vivaldi hopes to offer more healing through art workshops within Brunswick County. He notes that if people want to help veterans through his program, there are a wide variety of volunteer skills needed, from website development and design to expertise with social media such as Instagram and Facebook.
Want to help or learn more?
More information on these efforts may be found at saveavetnow.org and at coastalhorizons.org.
See and buy Vivaldi’s artwork at Blue Moon Gift Shops, 203 Racine Drive #102, Wilmington, (910) 799-5793, bluemoongiftshops.com