Leslie Lewis and friend Sara Parker at the High Dive

Leslie Lewis and friend Sara Parker at the High Dive.

United States Navy Veteran Leslie Lewis scored tickets to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the High Dive in Gainesville tonight for the cost of the online transaction fee.

While Lewis, 42, is in town looking for permanent housing, she said events offered by the High Dive and other venues in Gainesville have lifted her spirits while she works with through the process of transitioning from being homeless to finding a place to call home with the help of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program.

The SSVF is a federal outreach program for veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The goal of the SSVF is to provide opportunities for housing and support through case management and to "increase skills and income of participants," according to the program website.

Lewis served in the U.S. Navy during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, just after the 9/11 attack. She was serving on the combat support ship USS Seattle. Many years later, in January of this year, Lewis became homeless and reached out for help. During her time in Gainesville working with caseworkers, Lewis said she is taking advantage of an event ticket service offered to all veterans.

About five years ago, Lewis discovered the organization Veteran Tickets Foundation known as VETTIX.org, a nonprofit that works with special event organizations to provide veterans with almost no-cost tickets to events ranging from NFL games to small town comedy shows.

Once a veteran applies online to get an account, the person can start requesting tickets to events that venues donate. Those tickets usually only cost the amount of a transaction fee to acquire, Lewis said.

She is excited to be going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the High Dive tonight and added that in the past she has used the VETTIX site to score tickets to a Miami Dolphins football game for $3.97, races at Daytona Speedway, and comedy shows for just a ticket transaction fee.

For several years, Lewis said she has noticed that the High Dive "donates 10 tickets to every event."

To get tickets after opening an account, veterans just select the tickets menu item and it will list what events are available.

"In the search bar you open events, select the state, and you can even set an alert for tickets that are already reserved but come available if the veteran doesn't claim them," Lewis said. "All of the tickets are held at the event will call window for pickup after a veteran selects them online, and more than one is usually available, sometimes up to six" said Lewis, who noted she sometimes brings friends or family members along.

According to the VETTIX website, veterans like Lewis are why organizers started the program.

"Veteran Tickets Foundation is concerned that too many veterans are missing out on the All-American moments for which they have fought and sacrificed," the site says. "Veterans experience many difficult transitions as they reintegrate back into their families, their communities and eventually civilian life. Many service members and veterans struggle with wounds of war, both physical and invisible."

The website explains that events are "essential community reintegration opportunities, family bonding experiences and improve quality of life."

High Dive facilities manager Pat Lavery, who books events for the venue through his company Glory Days Presents, said he first heard about VETTIX from a billboard he spotted at the Gainesville Regional Airport four years ago.

He reached out to the organization and has been trying to donate as many tickets as he could ever since, depending on show capacity.

"In the last couple of years we have donated between $20,000 to $40,000 in tickets," Lavery said. And that includes livestream tickets too.

"Now we're reaching vets outside of the area," Lavery said.

Lavery said he often receives feedback from those veterans who use the donated tickets to attend his events.

"VETTIX sends out automated emails," he said. "They encourage people who get tickets to post feedback and they leave a message, or a photo of themselves at a show saying thanks for providing event tickets."

Mainstreet Daily News Reporter

Suzette Cook is a Mainstreet Daily News reporter who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years.

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