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At Ease

Grant Recipient Helps Soldiers Rest & Reconnect

Beth Waters has just a few minutes to talk because company is coming to Red, White & Bear, the North Georgia mountain cabin where she welcomes military veterans and their families to rest and reconnect.

“We’re ready,” Waters says, referring to preparations she and husband Kevin have made for the weekend’s 12 guests. But a short talk with the founder of Operation Appreciation – OpA, for short – reveals that “ready” defines many aspects of the nonprofit’s work.

The mountain retreat is just one facet of the busy organization that recently received a grant from Walton EMC’s Operation Round Up community assistance program. OpA supports Georgia’s more than 16,000 National Guard and Reserve members, veterans and their immediate families in a variety of ways.

“We’re on speed dial as the resource for assistance when traditional avenues for our service members are not available,” Waters said.

OpA’s projects have included everything from remodeling homes for disabled veterans to hosting fundraisers to planning funerals. The organization also coordinates support for deployed troops, such as sending care packages and letters. It is also there to help the families they leave behind, especially during the holidays.

Waters understands these needs because she’s been on the other side of the equation. In 2010, she was a working mother of five children when her husband was deployed for a year. It was a stressful time, but also a personally enlightening one.

She served as president of the Family Readiness Group (now called Soldier and Family Readiness Group), an organization meant to bridge the gap between military command units and the dependents of soldiers.

“That’s when I saw that there were so many needs that this group couldn’t meet. These families, our active-duty troops and our veterans needed another resource,” she said, explaining the “aha moment” that led to founding OpA.

Red, White & Bear became part of the program when construction was completed on the mountain retreat in 2019. Waters left her job and became a full-time volunteer to host disabled veterans needing a restorative getaway.

“We understand how much being surrounded by God’s nature and peace can affect a soldier’s perspective on family and life,” she said. “Here, they can be at ease.”