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Operation Welcome Home names new executive team

Operation Welcome Home welcomed some new faces to its executive team and acknowledged the efforts and contributions of those who have passed the torch.

Since its inception in 2012, Navy veteran Bob Pirner has been at the helm in the board president seat. He helped bring the idea of what Operation Welcome Home could be from a concept to a meaningful organization, serving the veteran community in north-central West Virginia.

Fellow board members and staff are grateful for his vision and eagerness to serve the needs of fellow veterans.

In January, Pirner was able to confidently pass the honor to fellow board member, Nicole Gerard, an Army Reserve veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Gerard lives in Morgantown with her Army veteran husband, Derek Gerard. She brings fresh ideas and enthusiasm and has hit the ground running at OWH, especially with the Veteran Agriculture Training Program.

Gerard is a full-time horticulture and environmental microbiology student at WVU and is active in the community and state, volunteering whenever she can.

“I am very passionate about helping all the veterans and their families in our community,” she said. “I know after my military service it took me a long time to find my rhythm, having a place like OWH to be able to be around other veterans, their families and supportive community members can help so many veterans to be able to be successful after their life in the military. The impact Bob has had on our community with OWH is incredible, and I feel honored to take on the role of board president and to have the opportunity to serve our community.”

One of the first things Gerard was tasked with as the newly appointed president of the board was to find a new executive director. Tiffany Summerlin has been in the executive director position for the last year and is returning to her former position at the Monongalia County Health Department as Smile Express Program coordinator. Under Summerlin’s leadership, OWH has had a successful year creating opportunities for veterans in north-central West Virginia.

Gerard assembled a search committee that narrowed down the applicants to an ideal candidate, Matthew Drayer. With his experience and dedication, Drayer is well-equipped to lead OWH toward its mission to provide various services to all veterans and family members regardless of service era, branch, rank, ability, or socioeconomic status.

“I am very excited about my opportunity with Operation Welcome Home,” Drayer said. “I am looking forward to carrying out the mission to support and assist the local veteran community.”

Prior to joining the OWH leadership team, Drayer was general manager for the West Virginia Black Bears Minor League Baseball Club. During his tenure, Drayer managed the ballclub’s operations and staff, as well as developed partnerships with local businesses and community organizations. His experience in community outreach and development will be a valuable advantage to OWH’s impact and growth.

Drayer is an alumnus of West Virginia University, where he obtained his degree in sports management and business administration. He lives in Cheat Lake with his wife Kelly and their two sons, Jacob, and Joshua. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, training for marathons, playing hockey and supporting his children’s youth sports endeavors. Drayer’s personal mission and passion for helping the community’s veterans stems from his late father, who was a decorated Army Ranger veteran and served in Vietnam.

Operation Welcome Home is a 501c3 nonprofit veteran resource organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families overcome barriers to employment and providing them with the knowledge and resources needed to live their best life.