Orrin Farmer with Loki

Along with his dog Loki, MTSU student veteran Orrin Farmer visits the MTSU Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building on the west side of campus recently. An aerospace professional pilot major, Farmer, who was in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, was one of dozens of military-centered students who received assistance from a United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties $10,000 grant in 2020, providing help to he and his wife during the stressful COVID-19 pandemic. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Orrin Farmer, a former Marine, moved to Murfreesboro with his wife, Holly, from Casper, Wyo., to pursue an aerospace professional pilot degree at Middle Tennessee State University.

Last year, he received nearly $950 from a United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties grant to help pay his mortgage in August.

“It was perfect timing and gave us a great sense of relief,” said Farmer, 29. “This opportunity was amazing. We didn’t have to worry. We did not have family here to lean on. We are extremely grateful. It was a very generous donation. It helped our year go a lot smoother and a little less rough.”

Farmer said the funds they received “helped close the gap” after he and Holly were laid off because of the pandemic. Since then, she has returned to work and he returned part-time. He added that “it made it feel like we were part of the MTSU veterans community” and established relationships with Miller and center staff, especially Ray Howell, who assists with VA benefits.

One of Farmer’s aerospace pro pilot goals is to become a flight instructor at MTSU’s Flight Operations Center at Murfreesboro Airport.

Military-connected members of the MTSU community have been beneficiaries of numerous grants.

MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center received more than $80,000 from the Tennessee Community CARES to assist veterans and their families in need of emergency assistance ($34,668 for food and housing), case management to access benefits and workforce training and to secure meaningful employment because of COVID impacts.

The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties’ $10,000 grant to the center provided food, shelter and more to the recipients. More recently, a Bob Woodruff Foundation $10,000 grant and $5,000 Journey Home Project grant will provide additional emergency relief.

“These grants have done a lot of good,” said Lori Ogden, development officer for the center, who added the funds not only assist MTSU student veterans, “but veterans and their families in the community. Any military- or veteran-connected individual can benefit” if they provide documentation that they are a veteran or military-connected.

Ogden said both grants and two others are to help recipients “overcome the effects of COVID-19. They have experienced financial hardships. This helps them stay in school and enter the competitive civilian workforce with college degrees.”

The $80,119 Tennessee Community CARES Grant was used for:

• Obtaining personal protective equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

• Veterans and their families receiving up to $1,000 in emergency housing assistance for rent, mortgage or utilities to avoid eviction, foreclosure and homelessness.

• Veterans and their families receiving up to $550 in emergency food assistance.

• Veterans/family members receiving assistance to help them access VA education and disability benefits, mental or behavioral health counseling, health care, housing and other community, federal and state resources to overcome the effects of COVID-19.

• Veterans and their families receiving workforce training, including resume assistance, mock interviews, military-to-civilian workforce transition seminars and connections to a network of employers ready to hire veterans and their family members.