What do Upstate Warrior Solution, designer couture wedding gowns, Vintage Warehouse and July 4th have in common?
Upstate South Carolina is an extremely patriotic place to live — a fact that has become increasingly apparent to a local nonprofit.
Upstate Warrior Solution is a community-based, not-for-profit organization serving Upstate veterans, active duty, National Guard and Reserve warriors and their families. The organization serves Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Greenville counties, connecting warriors and families to community solutions and leading them to empower themselves. The group’s vision is to restore these men and women with a sense of purpose and to empower the community to be responsive to their needs and the needs of their loved ones.
As awareness and visibility has increased for Upstate Warrior Solution, the offers for support have diversified. In December 2015, a local supporter approached Upstate Warrior Solution about her desire to offer an elaborate $50,000 wedding at the Historic Wilkins House in Greenville, free of charge to one lucky warrior and his or her fiancé. The search for that special warrior commenced, and four qualified participants and spouses emerged. A panel of judges reviewed the stories of these warriors, meeting with each couple before making a selection.
All of the candidates resided in the Upstate, were post 9/11 combat veterans, were deployed to either Afghanistan and/or Iraq, experienced some transitional issues upon return, but were working fulltime and/or going to school full time. Each also was engaged prior to Jan. 1. By late March, the judging panel had narrowed the field to one. The results were turned over to local wedding planner, Upstate I Do, for consultation and planning.
As the search for that special couple commenced, another unique offer was extended to Upstate Warrior Solution. The Cliffs Valley Community embraced the mission and vision of UWS just as the organization was getting established in 2014. As early partners, the Cliffs Valley members were briefed on several occasions about Upstate Warrior Solution’s work. One of those members, Bob Forsyth, is the oldest WWII veteran living at the Cliffs Valley Community, and is a strong supporter of local veterans.
Forsyth is married to Fifth Avenue New York designer Eva Haynal Forsyth. Eva has designed many gowns, and her works have been sold at Neiman Marcus, Kleinfield, and other retailers. Before designing her own line of wedding dresses, she designed for Vera Wang. Eva’s career spanned from the 1960s through 2008, when she retired.
After hearing about the Warrior Wedding, Bob Forsyth had an idea on how to enhance the event while honoring his wife’s work. He contacted Upstate Warrior Solution Cliffs volunteer and advocate Mike Wallach and offered 50 wedding dresses that his wife had designed. Seeing a unique opportunity, Upstate Warrior Solution set forth with the goal of utilizing the donation.
The first opportunity was obvious. The brides who were not selected for the Warrior Wedding were able to pick an Eva Forsyth gown for free. Two brides “shopped” for a dress in her collection. One bride even found “the one,” that special dress to use at her wedding.
Upstate Warrior Solution had fulfilled one need, but what could a veteran nonprofit do with another 49 wedding dresses? Upstate Warrior Solution supporter Karen Floyd had an idea that would bring the community together while utilizing this unique donation.
On July 4th, Upstate Warrior Solution will host a fashion show at Vintage Warehouse Event Center in Spartanburg. A combination of live and silent auctions will be incorporated with the fashion show. Funds raised at the event will go directly to assisting local warriors as they transition back to civilian life.
The tremendous support of the whole community is highlighted by a unique gesture of generosity by someone who already gave so much in WWII. Bob and Eva Forsyth exemplify the typical veteran — always willing to give more for the support of local warriors. Because of the couple’s support, and the support of the community, Upstate Warrior Solution will continue to bring local solutions to local warriors.