How Katy Perry Housed 22 Veterans & Sparked Operation Mid-Atlantic

Written by Amanda on . Posted in Uncategorized

Winner Scott Vaughn (left) with star Katy Perry and Veterans Matter founder Ken Leslie backstage in Cleveland.

Winner Scott Vaughn (left) with star Katy Perry and Veterans Matter founder Ken Leslie backstage in Cleveland.

Those who have been with us throughout the years know we are huge on giving credit where credit is due. This is the story of how Harry Sandler inspired Katy Perry, who inspired Scott Vaughn, who has now started Operation Mid-Atlantic with the goal of raising a million dollars to house 1200 homeless veterans.

Harry Sandler has been a pal of 1Matters for about 5 years. We met him when we recorded the 1Matters and World Homelessness Day videos with John Mellencamp. John had talked Harry out of his 3rd or 4th retirement to again manage his tour, which he had done for four decades.

In addition to being the tour manager for every big name you can think of, Harry also happens to be a brilliant, I believe genius level, photographer. On his travels to places we will never visit, he catches these incredible landscapes, which magically create an emotional response to the images.

As he was retiring after that tour he offered to have a gallery showing of his work in Toledo, with proceeds benefiting 1Matters. The events were huge successes, but more importantly a strong friendship was forged between Harry and all of the 1Matters team.

Our third annual Toledo exhibit was cancelled when he was again called out of retirement to be Katy Perry’s tour manager for the Prismatic World Tour.

Even though Katy is not doing ticketed public meet and greets on this tour, through the power of Harry and Katy’s compassion for our veterans, Harry was able to get a meet and greet for Veterans Matter to auction. The winner would be the superstar’s VIP guest, able to enjoy her show and to also meet with her backstage.

The winner was Scott Vaughn, a partner at Ernst and Young, in the DC area. He was a fan of Katy’s, and an even bigger fan of our veterans. He had an incredible day in Cleveland on August 14th, and he and I went to the pre-show VIP party, wandered around backstage, enjoyed exceptional seats, and of course, were enthused with meeting Katy herself.

The meeting was in a room adjacent to the stage. She bounded in dressed in a pepperoni “onesie” with her hair in a tight bun, ready to hit wardrobe for the finishing touches before she hit the stage. She spent about twenty minutes there, and during her time with us she was kind, engaging, and funny.

It happened that, on the day before, August 13th, we received a call from the VA in Austin, Texas; they requested deposits for 17 unhoused veterans for a special site project. Katy and Scott’s donation went to cover those 17 veterans, and five more in Michigan.

When we told her 22 veterans had been housed because she cared, she was grateful to Scott. “Thank you so much for helping Veterans Matter, it is so important that we help those who fought for our freedom,” she told him.

As we walked back to our seats after the meeting, Scott said he wanted to start a Mid-Atlantic chapter of Veterans Matter and help as many veterans as he could. Coincidently, I had been booked to give the keynote address at the Project Management Institute dinner in Washington, DC the following Tuesday, so we decided to meet for breakfast the morning after the speech. But for tonight, we enjoyed the show.

If you have never been to a Katy Perry show, you have to go some time. It is one of the most advanced technological extravaganzas ever staged. Yet, despite the mammoth size of the show, the magic of Katy Perry was clearly evident. She is able to do what few performers have done in a show of that size – perform it as if it were personally TO each and every one of the 20,000 or so fans in attendance, 1 at a time.

Between songs she would have these soft moments just between her and you, the audience, and talk about some things you might be struggling with. Each solution seemed to point to the same thing: Be yourself, love all, and fly.

The following Tuesday I flew down to give my talk to PMI in DC. Even before I took the stage I liked this group. You know how on any kind of “go help someone days” companies go rake leaves to help people? Not these guys; they want to have a permanent impact. What they are going to do is pick 200 non-profits and then project managers of PMI will help the non-profit execute a project that the non-profit actually needs. How cool is that?! I want to work with them to help expand to other communities where they have chapters.

At the end of my talk I told the 300 people there about the cool string of events above and how we were starting the Operation Mid-Atlantic chapter of Veterans Matter. I invited anyone interested in helping to join us for breakfast in the hotel at 6:30 the next morning. Five came and three emailed their regrets but committed to participate.

Operation Mid-Atlantic set a one million dollar goal; enough to help at least 1200 veterans in the region get housed. I think they will do it. They have these incredible project managers at PMI, led by a man who was inspired to start the chapter because of the momentum created by the compassion of Harry Sandler and Katy Perry to just matter to our American heroes on the streets. Veterans Matter: We take care of our own.

From the White House to the Big House

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized

Photo: Andrew Bardwell, CC license.

Photo: Andrew Bardwell, CC license.

I went to prison last week – for good cause.

I went to prison for the same reason I went to the White House two weeks before: to meet with people who are dedicated and WORKING, to help end veteran homelessness simply because veterans do matter.

The good cause was to thank the facility’s inmate veterans group for their help in housing our nation’s heroes who are still on the streets. These inmates are also heroes who fought for our freedom, but have now lost theirs.

The good cause was to receive a check for $252, which they wanted to donate to Veterans Matter. The money was raised at the Toledo Correctional Institution through a lasagna dinner fundraiser the inmates had just completed. It was a pretty nifty idea: prisoners who wanted to support the cause, or just have a taste of Italian cuisine for $8, could pre-order a huge helping of lasagna along with salad and garlic bread.

In meeting them I was moved by their humanity, their compassion, their dedication to those still on the streets. It again verified what I have seen time and time again on the streets: those who have the least, give the most. I have seen those with nothing give much. More than those with much, who give nothing.

The barbed wire reminded me this was not any group. They know where they are, they know it sucks, but they decided if they are going to be there, then dammit they want to do what they can to help others.

Though we have long been taught prison is filled with bad people, I did not feel that. I felt warmth and compassion. During my half hour talk, I felt a room full of people smiling, laughing at my jokes, moved like I am by the story of Jimmy, and equally committed AND WORKING to help veterans abandoned on the streets of our nation. They had lost their rights, but not their humanity and compassion – so said their actions, not just their words.

This group could have been any group I speak with; high schools, college classes, rotary clubs, church groups. It had all sorts of characters in all sorts of shapes, sizes and looks; from businessmen to tattooed canvases. The barbed wire reminded me this was not any group. They know where they are, they know it sucks, but they decided if they are going to be there, then dammit they want to do what they can to help others.

Speaking to them for a half hour, I did not feel I was surrounded by bad people. I felt that I was surrounded by two dozen people who had done bad things and got caught. I say “got caught” because the truth is, I could have been one of those sitting in that seat. As an addict and alcoholic, I did indeed do bad things. I just never got caught.

After my talk I stayed to chat with the group. I met the fellow who organized the fundraiser, a former marine and the head of the prison’s veteran group. He was almost in tears over the plight of our homeless veterans. Another man, who is part of the state-wide prison veteran group, along with a couple others who were brimming with pride, brought their dogs in to meet me. The dogs are part of the Puppies in Prison training program by Assistance Dogs of America, a program that takes in homeless dogs to have inmates train them to become assistance dogs. The handlers’ smiles went ear to ear with pride as they described their role in helping others.*

One of the very likable men I met turned out to have killed two people. In an instant he went from XXXX, the very nice man I met who cares so much about those veterans still on the streets, to the label of “murderer.” Same man, different lens.

And I got to know the men, their backgrounds. To one I asked what he will do when he gets out? He said he will be released in 2128.

Reality hits. This is where my internal conflict began. I had met these men just as men; men of compassion caring about and DOING something for homeless veterans. As I got to know them and their stories, hearing why they are there… being honest, it scared me. Not just their crimes, but how I started re-framing my image of them once I added my layer of “judgment” of their behavior.

One of the very likable men I met turned out to have killed two people. In an instant he went from XXXX, the very nice man I met who cares so much about those veterans still on the streets, to the label of “murderer.” Same man, different lens.

I have often said: “not our job to judge”. I believe all of the life manuals, the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc., all say the same thing: Love ALL, and down the road a piece, God will do some judging. Love all.

Admittedly, being next to a real live murderer at first scared me and evoked feelings of fear and loathing, evidenced by my slight lean back an inch. He saw it, of course. But I had met the man based on his compassion.

Working through it in my head and heart (it took conscience labor), I realized the truth is what he DID is not who he IS. To me, he is still the compassionate human being I met who, in an instant of rage years ago, ended the life of two people. He is now in this facility to pay the price for that instant, the rest of HIS life, times two. They own his life, but not his soul. His soul shines today; I saw it.

This speaks to the topic of redemption, which is another topic for another day.

For me, this visit caused a profound insight. I found when it comes to homeless veterans, there is no difference between the people I met at the White House and the people I met in prison. Both of these groups not only say “Veterans Matter”, they are doing something about it. But there IS a huge difference between the men I met in prison and many other Americans…

So often I hear “We are behind you all the way.” But they are way behind; in fact, on the sideline, just cheering.

The inmates at Toledo Correctional Institution and all the advocates and leaders at the White House are not behind the veterans who are abandoned on the streets. They stand WITH them, by action.

Veterans Matter. We [all] take care of our own.


*Prison rules dictate I not use the men’s names. But to the men I met, if you read this, and I hope you do, great work! Your compassion helps many veterans.

Are you for or with?

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized

Volunteering for different organizations is a great way to help out the community, as many of you are aware. However, there are two different ways of volunteering. One way has the ability to be destructive towards the individual, and the other way can lift people up! Unfortunately, the most popular volunteering style is the one that can strip humanity off the shoulders of those in need. The destructive type is volunteering FOR someone.

You are simply behind the counter holding up a tray with a weary smile. You feel good being there, but you maybe only say a few dry “Have a nice day” “Enjoy your meal” or “Would you like broccoli?” other then that, you most likely do not say much if anything. You are placed on a pedestal above the hungry and unhoused, feeling good about yourself for giving your valuable time and that you are doing a service to them.

 soupkitchenThis sounds really normal, and not necessary bad, right? You are for them.

But what does it look like to volunteer with?

You put yourself on the same level as those you serve. Come in with no judgments, and with the realization that you are not doing this for any superficial reasons. Rather it is your duty to take care of those without. Help out with whatever is needed, but then go sit and eat with the guests. Show them that the food is good enough for you too, show them you care. Extend a hand and engage someone in conversation to get past the casual words muttered from behind the counter. This has the capability to infuse dignity back into the marginalized’s lives.  This has the capability to let them know they matter.

Do you see the difference yet? It is simply a different mindset. Next time you go to volunteer think “I could very well be homeless, they are no different than I. If I was homeless, I would want someone to eat with me and to care for me.”


See Within from Without

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized

1507570_10203189489130866_6405523117535658210_nTOLEDO, OH, May 20, 2014- St. Ursula Academy is working to build awareness and compassion towards homeless students. The Within program was kicked off a year ago, and was featured at eXclaim. Today’s efforts were a result of two amazing individuals: Carly Dudek and Alexa Carlson, who are the program chairs.  “Within seeks to build awareness of homeless young people in our community in order to inspire action and end the cycle of poverty meanwhile building bonds with each other and a deeper sense of neighborly love within our city.”

One out of every 45 students are homeless. 5,000 homeless students die every year. At St. Ursula Academy the Within board members brought the statistics in a live interactive way! Each locker was covered with a strip of paper. Having a red locker meant you are the one out of the 45 students who are homeless. Black represents being one of the 5,000 students who die from being on the streets. If you where fortunate enough, you received a white locker, meaning you have a home.

On each locker was a card that held more information on youth homelessness, and asking the students to join in the cause! Within is looking for other schools to try out the simulation, and see how the students react.




Student goes to her locker to read about Within, and to see what the white locker means!

Student goes to her locker to read about Within, and to see what the white locker means!





Written by Amanda on . Posted in Uncategorized



Cumulus Media Radio Properties Partner in Nationwide Campaign to Secure Housing for Vets
Kid Rock: Veterans Matter
by Veterans Matter – a program of 1Matters


TOLEDO, OH – May 1, Over a dozen celebrities have teamed up with Ohio-based Veterans Matter to generate awareness about the issue of homeless veterans and to help raise funds that will decrease the number of unhoused vets on our streets. The campaign is supported by media giant Cumulus Media which is airing Veterans Matter celebrity-voiced public service announcements in 110 U.S. markets May 1 – 31, 2014.

The thirty-second announcements, encouraging listeners to pledge support by texting “VETS” to 41444, are voiced by musicians Kid Rock, Kix Brooks, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Darius Rucker, Darryl Worley, Stevie Nicks, Dusty Hill, Emerson Drive, Jennifer Nettles, Natalie Stovall and The Drive as well as author Mitch Albom.

“It’s really important to me that we take care of our service men and women,” says Kix Brooks. “There are so many precautions taken to be sure they’re safe while they’re serving, but we also need to keep in mind what happens when they get home.”

Veterans Matter, a national program of 1Matters, a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit with roots back to 1990, was started by founder Ken Leslie in 2012, after learning that the biggest obstacle facing some 60,000 homeless veterans eligible for housing assistance was the lack of a rental deposit, which is not covered by the HUD-VASH voucher assistance program.

“When you are working on the streets you see veterans beaten, robbed, even killed, yet if that happened behind enemy lines Americans would be outraged,” explains Leslie. “Veterans Matters is just some regular Americans taking care of our own one at a time, just because we should, and because we can, everyone can.”

To date, Veterans Matter has housed 235 veterans, and veteran families, in six states. Partnering with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veteran Affairs (VA), Veterans Matter provides rental deposits for homeless veterans who qualify for voucher-assisted living but are unable fund the initial housing costs. With the outpouring of celebrity support and the backing of Cumulus Media, Veterans Matter has high hopes of being able to help house 1,000 more veterans in 2014. 100% of funds raised go toward the program.

“We must help get these warriors back into housing and recapture their lives,” says Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. “We must take care of our own. Veterans Matter.”

Visit and for more information and to join the campaign.

# # # contact: Jean Mollmann | | 206.947.5326

Kix Brooks Joins Veterans Matter Campaign!

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized

Kix Brooks official press release:




Tuesday, February 18, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio – Award-winning recording artist and country music star Kix Brooks is the first honorary chairman of the Tennessee chapter of Veterans Matter, expanding the reach of an organization focused on providing housing to as many of our veterans as possible, as quickly as possible.

There are more than 57,000 homeless veterans across the country, and in Tennessee, 991 vets don’t have roofs over their heads.

“It’s really important to me that we take care of our service men and women,” said Brooks. “There are so many precautions taken to be sure they’re safe while they’re serving, but we also need to keep in mind what happens when they get home. Too often, they have been abandoned and forgotten on our nation’s streets and Veterans Matter is an organization that I am honored to be involved with for supporting veterans who need assistance getting back on their feet.”

Veterans Matter partners with the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help house homeless veterans. While voucher-assisted living is currently available to about 170 Tennessee veterans, rental deposits must be provided to landlords before veterans can move into their own apartments. Since rental deposits, averaging $750, are not easily or quickly covered by government programs, Veterans Matter speeds up the process by quickly funding deposits direct to landlords to get veterans immediately into housing.

“The support of Kix Brooks will undeniably save lives and help resuscitate health and dignity to those who have sacrificed for our country, and now are in dire need,” said Ken Leslie, founder of Veterans Matter.

Brooks is focused not just on raising funds to support the mission of Veterans Matter, but to engage a wider audience about the issues facing veterans and their families through social media and public-service announcements. Ninety cents of every dollar raised goes to immediate housing for our country’s military veterans.

“This is such a simple program. There are thousands of veterans and veterans’ families on the streets tonight. Many are just waiting on housing they are already approved for by HUD and the VA, but just need the rental deposit to get in their home,” said Mr. Brooks.

Since its founding in 2012, Veterans Matter has housed 180 veterans in 33 cities in five states.

Visit Operation Tennessee at to learn more.
# # #

Veterans Matter is a program of, and was started in 2012 by Ken Leslie, who was homeless before kicking drugs and alcohol in 1990. As the CEO of a small executive search firm since 1994, Leslie is a long time philanthropist dedicated to helping others in desperate need.

Following his run as one half of one of Country Music¹s most successful duos of all time, Kix Brooks continues his career as a solo touring/recording artist while simultaneously exploring new paths. With new production and lead acting credits for two recent film releases under his belt, he is currently nominated for the “ACM’s National On Air Personality of the Year,” which follows Brooks’ third CMA “National Broadcast Personality of The Year” win for his radio show American Country Countdown. Brooks also hosts his Kickin’ It with Kix radio show five nights a week, co-owns Nashville’s award-winning winery Arrington Vineyards, is a columnist for Country Weekly and has recently added public speaking to his resume. For a list of upcoming tour dates and more information on new projects, visit

Veterans Matter: Jean Mollmann jean[at]veteransmatter[dot]org

Kix Brooks: Tyne Parrish, The GreenRoom, tyne[at]thegreenroompr[dot]com

The Birth of Veterans Matter

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized

On February 6th, 2012 founder Ken Leslie was talking to the VA VASH coordinator Shawn Dowling about why some vet friends of his were not housed already in the VASH program. She told him because they were on the streets they had no jobs, so they did not have the average $600 required deposit. That night he conceived Veterans Matter. February 7th he called @Barb Petee with ProMedica and the Toledo Community Foundation, Inc. Promedica Advocacy Fund asking for $26k for the Veterans Matter pilot program. Though foundations are notoriously slow, he asked for it at black ops speed as there were veterans waiting. On February 10th, 6.30 am Ken was fleshing out the program operations manual this song below was released, he was number 376 to hear it. 7 days later, Valentines Day, at 5:36 pm Barb called with full funding. 3 days later the first veteran was housed out of the local family shelter. 11 days from idea to funding, all because Veterans Matter: We take care of our own.

Love All…

Written by Abby Dudek on . Posted in Uncategorized


2 Pope Francis is going out and taking love to the people.  He is working to help the poor and those treated unjustly. He is standing up for all.

He lives, “Everyone Matters!”  He is challenging all convention which has gotten us here, today.


  1. “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”
  2.  “Money has to serve, not to rule.”
  3. “It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest-model car. You can’t do this. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”
  4.  “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”
  5. “Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart.”
  6. “Anyone who wants to be pope doesn’t care much for themselves, God doesn’t bless them. I didn’t want to be pope.”
  7. “I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess.”
  8. AND the man does selfies!

Which of these values mean the most to you?  Click here to post your opinion to our Facebook.

Every 1Matters, right?

Latest Update: Expansions, Board Update

Written by Ken on . Posted in Uncategorized

We have been sooooo busy housing Veterans and planning for 2014, we have had little time to post.  Below is the update that just went out to our Houston Area of Operation, as well as one that went to all of our registered VA social workers.  Here is the latest!

Hey All,

5 more housed this week, two in Dallas!!!! Way to go people!  They were astounded that we really do move to help the veterans as fast as we say we do.

Overall, to date we have raised $180k for Veterans Matter, $70k of that has come from you guys, and you have now housed 94 veterans in Texas! How cool is that!

Just today we got a commitment for $5000 for Seattle so we will be opening the operation there immediately.  We are now targeting Nashville (courtesy of Kix Brooks), San Diego, and Detroit.  We got a call from Detroit this week begging for our help. It was so moving, lit my ass on fire. We are setting up a couple meetings there next week.  If you all know someone we should talk to in Detroit, let Gary know asap.

Which is a great segue to….

In the Board news, we are thrilled Gary Fruchtman has agreed to join the 1Matters Board of Directors.  His love, passion and commitment, and support is such a blessing to the organization, as it has been to me personally the past twenty years. At our year end meeting last month the Board voted to go all out to house as many veterans as we can this year.  We really would like to help at least 1000 veterans this year.  To that end we are formalizing our existing structure and the model we learned from your work, and then successfully replicated in Indiana. Following Dusty’s example, other compassionate artists are helping to raise the awareness, and Gary, assuming the position of National Funding Chairman for Veterans Matter, will engage the business community in those targeted areas.  Gary will be looking to engage Regional Funding Coordinators who can gather friends to raise $25K – $50k. (think Kevin) and Funding Coordinators who raise $5000 to $25,000.  (Think the rest of you cool kids.)  Bragging him up, once John M. signed on in Indy, the person Gary engaged in Indiana raised $38k in eleven hours.

We will need to hire a Project Coordinator who will work directly with the VASH social workers to facilitate the referrals, problem resolution, and identify other assets that could help the veterans. (i.e. Sheri’s program, gift cards, etc.)  Also, to facilitate implementation in the VASH programs nationwide, Shawn Dowling with the VA here, who helped start this thing in the first place, is setting up a conference call with the national VA VASH leaders.  If that goes well she feels they will help us fast track implementation in all future targeted areas of operation if the information/introduction comes from “upstairs.”

That’s enough for now.  A lot going on, which means not a lot of time to tell everyone.  We are integrating all facets of the program into one software package which will allow the us to regularly disseminate more information.

All this is great stuff, but what really counts is the 94 heads who are sleeping on 94 beds in 94 Houston homes, JUST because you decided “Houston Takes Care of Our Own.”

Thank you all!


Ps.     Below is the update we sent to all of our registered VASH managers, got great feedback from it.   We will be sending them all a survey next to identify any other ways we can serve them, or the veterans they serve, better.

Hi there Susanna,

We are sending this to all of our registered VASH managers and social workers because we would like to keep you up to date on all of the amazing stuff going on here at Veterans Matter. We have been so busy housing veterans with you that we have had no time to send an update!

We have 42 registered VASH staff in Texas, 11 out of Ann Arbor, and three in New England we are working with. We have now housed 170 veterans in 32 cities in 4 states: Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Massachusetts. We are currently expanding to Indiana, and working on securing the funds for San Diego and Detroit.

We are getting big enough that we are hiring a Program Coordinator (PC) to help us, help you.  This will mean you will get very regular updates on the progress of your peers, the program, and ways we have found to get our veterans housed faster.

The Houston Funding Coordinators decided to expand from Houston alone to all of Texas. Dallas has already housed TWO veterans there this year.

Check this out, the same day we opened up fundraising for Operation Indiana we had the program fully funded at $38,000. It took 11 hours!  We are now working to engage the Indiana social workers.

We asked the VASH managers and social workers how they use Veterans Matter and they say: 1) To preserve SSVF money for already housed veterans.  2)  Because lease up funds for homeless veterans are in short supply in their area. 3) They need to house the veteran fast and don’t want to wait for other programs (which could take longer), require the veteran to get another case manager, housing plan, etc. We are glad to serve you all no matter what reason.    And if you think of a way we can serve you better, let us know.  WE SEEK YOUR ADVICE!  If you think of a way we can help you even better, we want to hear it.  Our goal is just to help you, help our veterans.

If you thought you heard about Veterans Matter on the radio, you did.  Cumulus Broadcasting ran our Dusty Hill, John Mellencamp, and Kix Brooks (Brooks and Dunn) PSA’s nationally November 1 – 11.

Our goal this year simply to house as many veterans as we can, as fast as we can.  We hope to help 1000 veterans nationwide.

AND, we want to say great work to you all in reducing the number of unhoused veterans to 57,849. We know you worked your tails off to make that happen.  YOU are the heroes in this story.  We look forward to the honor of serving you. Thank you for the amazing 2013. 2014 looks very promising.