It was a windfall, says Len Proper.

It was a windfall, says Len Proper.

The executive director of the Military Veterans Resource Center on East Dublin-Granville Road was practically bowled over last week when participants in a leadership development program chose his nonprofit organization to benefit from a service project.

"I'd never heard of them before they called me," Proper said.

The April graduating class of Next Level Columbus created a Veterans Impact Project to raise money and collect donated items to benefit former members of the military.

Their goal, said co-captain Jennifer Sconyers, was to raise $25,000 to donate to an organization that assists veterans. After settling on the Military Veterans Resource Center, which started out in 2000 as primarily a job-training agency but has evolved to offer veterans other services, Sconyers said class members raised more than $33,000 and received donations of 10,000-plus items such as sleeping bags, personal-care products, a small refrigerator, gift cards and even a scooter.

"Once we reached that, we thought, 'What the heck, let's go for $40,000,' and we're almost there," the other co-captain of the 75-member class, Geni Henderson Goff, said in a telephone interview.

"Within the span of 20 days, we've done all this," said Sconyers, whose family has been in the military for four generations.

"It was a natural fit, their philosophy and ours in terms of making a change in the world one person at a time, basically," Goff said.

"We were interested in an organization that was aligned with our values," Sconyers said. "They've been a great partner for us."

Goff called the Military Veterans resource center an "amazing organization ... that is instrumental in helping get veterans back on their feet."

After receiving the call from the Next Level group, Proper said he fully expected the Military Veterans Resource Center might receive $1,000 or $2,000 from the service project, and he'd have been happy with that.

Then he saw the oversized check for more than $30,000.

"It was really a state of awe," Proper said. "This will really help us build capacity here."

The donated items and the financial contribution will enable center personnel to do more in helping homeless veterans, those in danger of becoming homeless and men and women coming out of prison, he said.

In deciding on a service project, said class member Juna Paster, various ideas were kicked around and a vote taken on the top four, with assistance for veterans being the choice -- "which was near and dear to my heart, since I'm married to a combat veteran," Paster said.