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Posts Tagged ‘help for military families’

Whether you have been with us on our journey for a while or are new to discover us, we’d like to look at some of our favorite moments. Thanks to your support, we continue to help build strong, stable and secure military families, and help them not just survive, but thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Thanks to you…

eoyblog500thhome 1. We continued to make dreams come true.

2016 started off with the celebration of the awarding of our 500th home through our Homes on the Homefront program, and continued with the awarding of 83 mortgage-free homes to veteran families. On average, Operation Homefront awards between 80-100 homes each year thanks to the support of our partners. As those families complete a two-year program, they earn the deed to their home – 120 families completed that process this year.

 

2. We were able to stand with and help military families get through tough times.

This year, we provided more than $3.4 million in emergency assistance grants to over 2,100 families who hit a bump in the road and needed help with rent or mortgage payments, major home or car repairs, utility bills or buying food for their families. Since inception, we have provided nearly 20 million dollars in financial assistance to military families.

In 2016, 89.4% of military family clients agreed or strongly agreed that our Emergency Assistance Program made them feel strong, stable, and secure.

 

3. We offered families coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war support and hope.

Our Hearts of Valor program, which provides support to caregivers of wounded veterans, has grown to more than 3,200 participants, giving them vital connections to others who understand their unique challenges. We were also able to host more than 80 at several retreats throughout the year, where these quiet heroes were able to rest and rejuvenate while connecting with other caregivers and resources.

 

4. We offered security and a place to heal.

Transition from service continues to be a significant challenge for our post 9/11 veterans. More than 80 percent of the families assisted through our emergency assistance program were those with a wounded service member. In 2016, Operation Homefront placed 380 transitioning veterans and family members in one of our rent-free, transitional Operation Homefront Villages, providing critical security and time for our veterans to heal and focus on their futures.

eoyblogvillagesThey join nearly 1700 veterans and family members that have found solace at our Villages since the program was founded, and we have helped defray nearly 4.7 million in rent and housing costs for these families, allowing them to save and focus on moving forward.

 

5. We brought attention to the contributions and strength of the military child.

The start of a New Year will bring with it the Military Child of the Year Award season. Once again, in 2016, we honored 7 extraordinary military children from across all branches of service, as well as awarding the inaugural Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation. Soon, we will announce the semi-finalists for the 2017 Military Child of the Year Award and Innovation award, and we could not be more excited to spotlight more incredible military children for the 9th year in a row at our April gala in Washington DC.

 

6. We helped military children with the supplies they needed to kick off a successful school year.

eoyblogbtsbMilitary children make many moves over the course of their lives, and starting a new school year in a new place can be a challenge. One of our favorite times of the year is our annual Back-To-School Brigade campaign in the summer. We are not only able to provide school supplies, but get a chance to welcome these families to our communities and make them feel at home. In 2016, we once again provided more than 31,000 military kids with backpacks filled with school supplies, and since the program began in 2008, Operation Homefront has provided well over a quarter-million backpacks to children in military families.

 

7. We honored the role of the military spouse.

More than 600 spouses enjoyed nights of relaxation and fun at our Homefront Celebrations, like this one just outside Fort Hood. It’s a chance for them to build a stronger peer support network and make new friends.

 

8. We welcomed new members to the (military) family.

We were honored to help welcome new bundles of joy for over 400 military moms in 2016 at our Star-Spangled Babies baby showers. These celebrations provide new parents early childhood tips and a support system when they are far away from home and family.

 

eoyblogcarrie9. We helped create memories that will last a lifetime.

We were able to help military families make precious memories together and celebrate Honor.Family.Fun by hosting military families at Carrie Underwood concerts across the country throughout 2016, culminating in a special concert and night aboard the newest Carnival vessel, the VISTA.

 

 

10. We made the holidays a little brighter for our military families.

In 2016, more than 1,000 children received toys at Holiday Toy Drive events, with many thousands more being served through our work eoyblogbikesbaewith commands, family readiness groups and other community organizations. 11,000 families received everything they needed for a spectacular holiday meal this year thanks to our Holiday Meals for Military events. In total, we have served over 175,000 military children and 57,000 family meals since we began our holiday programs in 2008.

 

What’s next?

We know there is still more work to be done.  In January, there will be more applications for assistance. Whether it is help paying an electric bill, fixing the family car or being able to put food on the table – military families need and deserve our support.   Your commitment will be crucial

Every day, across America, Operation Homefront employees, volunteers and supporters are serving America’s military families who have given  so much for our nation. Our troops and their families are counting on us.

Thank you for all that you’ve done to support our military families. We hope you join us as serve even more military families in 2017!

 

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Returning from the holiday weekend, we found this message in our inbox:

“I just want to say thank you for sponsoring the Thanksgiving Meal this year. My son was born last Friday and funds have been a little tight this month. Having a wonderful home cooked meal meant the world to me and my wife. Thank you so much!”

There is no better feeling than to know that you made a difference in someone’s life when they needed some help. At Operation Homefront, we are privileged to witness this every day, thanks to the generosity of our fellow Americans. While we see the willingness to give year round, it is particularly evident during the holiday season.

givingtuesday2We are immeasurably grateful for this support, for this time of year also brings an increase in requests for assistance from our military and wounded, ill, and injured veterans. Since our inception, Operation Homefront has distributed over 57,000 holiday meals and served over 172,000 military children through our Holiday Toy programs.  But beyond holiday assistance, we warm homes, keep vehicles running, and ensure cupboards aren’t bare. To date, nearly 30,000 families have been helped through our emergency financial assistance program. Still more have been served through our rent-free transitional housing, Homes on the Homefront, the wildly successful Back-To-School Brigade, and more.

All thanks to the support of our community, partners, and donors.

Today is #GivingTuesday. For the 5th year, people the world over are joining together for one day to give back. Last year, on one day, over 700,000 individuals raised $116,000,000!

Please help our critical work continue by joining us this #GivingTuesday by #GivingStrength to our military, veteran and transitioning families when it is needed the most.

givingtuesday1Give Time:

With the help of our 3,200+ volunteers, we give strength to military families across the nation every single day through our programs. But there are always more families to support. You can help. Sign-up today to be an Operation Homefront volunteer to support military families in your area throughout the year.

Give Support:

We get requests from military families every day who need some assistance. Help us give strength and support to our service members when they need it the most. From help with a utility bill, to food assistance, to keeping a roof over a family’s head, you can help make life just a little easier for our military families and wounded warriors. 92% of all our donations made go directly to programs and services to support military families.  

16givingstrength_smpost_640x640Give Your Voice:

Email your Message of Thanks to info@operationhomefront.net or post a photo of a service member, veteran or military family member you know with their name, branch of service and when they served on the Operation Homefront Facebook page with #GivingStrength. You can also submit your personal stories for a chance to be featured on “Operation Homefront Strong Families” or our “Thank Military” Thursdays.

Learn more about our Giving Strength campaign by visiting www.operationhomefront.net/givingstrength

About Giving Tuesday:

In 2012, the New York’s 92nd Street Y, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, pondered the idea of harnessing the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities. They decided to promote a day of giving worldwide. You can learn more about #GivingTuesday at www.givingtuesday.org

 

 

 

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When Senior Airman Lakisha Williams was living in San Diego, California, with her mom, it seemed to her like everyone in her family was having problems. Lakisha was not where she wanted to be in life .

Lakisha was inspired by family members who had gone before and saw their legacy of military service. Lakisha’s mom, dad, uncle, and several cousins had all served in the military. Their service inspired Lakisha to join the military too and signed up for the Air Force.

During her Air Force career, Lakisha was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Unfortunately, Lakisha was seriously injured and processed out of the military with a 90 percent rating from the Veterans Administration.

“I was improperly prepared to leave the military,” said Lakisha. “things were rough. The military was the best part of my life. I moved back to San Diego. I ended up being homeless for a time. My life was very sad. I was in a really bad marriage: we ended up divorced.”

lakishawilliams1But Lakisha would not give up. She started working for the local VA and becoming an advocate for other veterans. Eventually, she was offered a new job in Arizona with a significant pay raise. “I had to take the opportunity. The raise was really good and would allow me and my kids to get off assistance.”

But the move was more expensive that Lakisha had planned. She faced unexpected security deposits and advance rent payments. She first called Wounded Warrior Project to see if they could help. She was referred to Operation Homefront.

Thanks  to Operation Homefront, Lakisha and her children have settled  into their new apartment and she’s successfully working at her new job.

“When I was helping veterans to get jobs, it was hard to see veterans having to compromise, lie, or lose everything to qualify for help. I like that Operation Homefront is different and wants to know that you have a plan for the future and can move forward.”

Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and rent-free transitional housing for wounded veterans and their families.

“I am so happy that I moved away from San Diego,” said Lakisha. She had to return for a bankruptcy hearing  and she commented, “being back today is a good reminder of why I left the area, and I can’t wait to get back to my home in Arizona.”

“Operation Homefront was able to help me quickly,” said Lakisha. “The help was much appreciated,  and I am really glad that things like this are available. Although there are lots of programs out there, like the VA, they don’t really help to prevent homelessness. Operation Homefront is the middle man—you step in where others can’t.”

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

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Guest blog from Dr. Sara Boz, Senior Director of Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor program

Suicide is a complex and frightening topic.  In our community, it hits so close to home that our reaction tends to be denial. Suicide is a hard topic to open up about… but we can no longer ignore it. We have to talk about it.

There is a phrase that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need to take the topic of suicide out of the shadows and talk openly.

When a caregiver or a veteran tells me their story about a failed suicide attempt, it normally goes like this:

“I probably would have succeeded in killing myself, if only…”

  • “If only the phone hadn’t rang.”
  • “If only I had more pills.”
  • “If only the ambulance had arrived a little later.”

When a person plans their suicide they make the very final decision to die before their time on Earth is over.  They no longer fear death and dying.  They are at the point at which they perceive death is better than their current situation.  Those who have tried tell me that they felt there was no other solution to their pain and suffering.  They feel hopeless and in a single, desperate moment… they find the will and the means.

“If only” there was something we could do.

Working with veterans and their caregivers as director of Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor program, I have talked with many families who face the challenge of healing from both the seen and unseen wounds of war.  There are some ways we can help create more “if only’s:”

  • We can work on being more aware of the people we care about.  KNOW that it’s okay to ask someone if they are feeling suicidal. If I notice that someone is giving up, feeling hopeless, or not themselves, I will ask how I can help.
  • Put yourself in others’ shoes. I’ve tried to imagine the different ways of taking one’s own life. Maybe I can’t fully grasp how someone is willing to accept the pain that will likely accompany suicide but I can try and see the path they took to get to that point. Could it be that veterans do not have a fear of death and dying because they were exposed to so much death during their combat tours?  Maybe they think that the pain they are experiencing, whether emotional or physical, is more than the pain they would feel through death.  Understanding the path may help us steer someone off of it at any point before the end.
  • It’s okay to be persistent. You would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks, “I did enough to prevent this.”  I have known a few people who have been successful in their suicide attempts.  I will always wonder if I could have done more and asked more questions. If a caregiver or veteran talks about suicide, I will not leave them alone. A few years ago, a caregiver called me to ask for a housing resource.  During the conversation she mentioned that her husband may be suicidal because of the situation they were in.  She explained that there were signs that he was giving up.  I listened to her story, asked a lot of questions, and told her I could help. In this instance, the caregiver was way ahead of me. She already had a plan to get him to a physician that week and had made the house safe and free of all weapons over the past few weeks.  She planned to drive her husband straight to the emergency room if the situation progressed.  I called her about a year later to see how she was doing and they are all now doing well. Which proves that there is always hope…such an important message to communicate to the person who wants to give up.

I believe that most people don’t want to die. I don’t want anyone to give up on their life.  There is no definite solution to preventing suicide, and the tragic fact is that someone will find a way if they are resolute enough.  But maybe, just maybe, we can take steps that will save one. And then another. And before we know it, we have saved more than we have lost.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you know of someone who may be suicidal, please refer them to the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press “1” or go to https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ for more information including how to identify the warning signs.

 

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Guest blog from Bob McGowan, current member of our Board of Directors, and active volunteer for our Back-to-School Brigade

McGowanBlog1

Bob McGowan, current member of our Board of Directors, and active volunteer for our Back-to-School Brigade.

I am a former Marine who served for a few years at the tail end of the Vietnam War.  My Dad was a World War II Marine who was severely wounded in the battle of Okinawa. Both of my grandfathers served in World War I.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, it seemed like every family had someone who had fought in WWII, Korea or was headed to Vietnam. As such, everyone knew a little about the price that had to be paid so we could enjoy our way of life.

Most of us have heard how so many on the “homefront” supported the war effort and our troops during WWII through bond drives, scrap collections, Victory gardens and USO events.  In fact, when I used to hear the word “homefront,” I would think of that era and how our nation rallied to support our troops.

Now when I think of that word, I think of Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront gives us an opportunity to connect with our troops and their families to show them that we really do appreciate what they do for us.

These days, with less than one half of one percent of our population serving in the Armed Services, I believe most Americans have lost touch with our troops and what hardships they endure.  Most Americans can’t imagine a six-week work project in a foreign land, let alone a six-month tour of duty with someone shooting at you!

McGowanBlog2I first got involved with Operation Homefront in 2008 when I worked for the company Airgas in Pittsburgh.  Airgas chose them as their Corporate Charity and encouraged all employees to get involved at the local level.  This was exactly what I was looking for, so I joined the Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey field office as a volunteer where I could help out during the Back-To-School Brigade events and anything else that came our way.

The Back-to-School Brigade, where we provide free school supplies to military kids, is such a great time for volunteers to get personally involved and to get the opportunity to meet some of our service members and their families.  Dollar Tree has been a tremendous partner for many years and anyone who visits one of their stores will see posters about Operation Homefront displayed prominently.  I’ve picked up school supplies at many stores over the years and I always thank the managers and their staff for supporting our troops.

Helping to pack the backpacks or handing them to the kids while their parents look on is a heartwarming experience that will stay with you a long time.  Those families have more than enough going on in their lives. You can see the gratitude in their eyes.  I love to see when the parents encourage their kids to come up to the volunteers and thank them personally while the parents look on.  You can bet that every time they look at that backpack, they will remember where it came from.

I’m so proud to volunteer for Operation Homefront and love to see all the great things that we’ve done for military families over the years.  I have been very blessed to be a part of this organization and I am extremely proud of all the volunteers that have pitched in along the way.

McGowanBlog3

 

 

About 1Military 1Family: Back-to-School Brigade: 1Military 1Family is a national initiative that focuses on building stronger communities by welcoming new families and helping them successfully integrate into the neighborhoods, schools and businesses in their area. Learn more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.operationhomefront.net/1Mil1Fam

 

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Whether you have been with us on our journey for a while or are new to discover us, we’d like to share a bit of what we do, how we made a difference in 2015, and what we look forward to in 2016:

1. We help make dreams come true

gettingtoknowusblog1picIn 2015, Operation Homefront awarded 95 mortgage-free homes to veteran families through our Homes on the Homefront program. On average, Operation Homefront awards between 80-100 homes each year thanks to the support of our partners. As those families complete a two-year program, they earn the deed to their home – 102 families completed that process last year. We are excited to be awarding our 500th home this month.

2. We’re here to help military families get through tough times.

Last year, we provided more than $4.2 million in emergency assistance grants to more than 2,300 families who hit a bump in the road and needed help with rent or mortgage payments, major home or car repairs, utility bills or buying food for their families.

We know that the holidays can be tough for our military families. In 2015, more than 10,420 children received toys at Holiday Toy Drive events, and 11,000 families received meals through various programs throughout the year, including our Holiday Meals for Military events.

3. We help families cope with the visible and invisible wounds of war.

Our Hearts of Valor program, which provides support to caregivers of wounded veterans, has grown to more than 2,600 participants, giving them vital connections to others who understand their unique challenges.

Transition from service continues to be a significant challenge for our post 9/11 veterans. More than 80 percent of the families assisted through our emergency assistance program were those with a wounded service member.

In 2015, Operation Homefront placed 111 families in one of our rent-free, transitional Operation Homefront Villages, providing critical security and time for our veterans to heal and focus on their futures.

gettingtoknowusblog2pic4. We remember the military child.

The start of a New Year brings with it the start of the Military Child of the Year Award season. We just announced this year’s semifinalists for the 2016 Military Child of the Year Award and in April, we will spotlight these incredible military children for the 8th year in a row at our gala in DC. In addition, this year, we are being joined by Booz Allen Hamilton who will award the inaugural Innovation Award to a military child.

One of our favorite times of the year is our annual Back-To-School Brigade campaign in the summer. In 2015, we provided more than 31,000 military kids with backpacks filled with school supplies.

5. We honor the role of the military spouse.

We were honored to help welcome new bundles of joy for over 1,000 military moms in 2015 at our Star-Spangled Babies baby showers. More than 600 spouses enjoyed nights of relaxation and fun at our Homefront Celebrations, including those in Tacoma, WA. This year, Homefront Celebrations and our amazing baby showers will return for another year of honoring those who hold down the homefront.

gettingtoknowusblog3pic6. We cover America!

Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas and Washington, DC, Operation Homefront serves every state from 17 locations across the country supported by 2,500 + volunteers.

What’s next?

We know there is still more work to be done. Every day, across America, Operation Homefront employees, volunteers and supporters are making great strides to help those that give so much for our nation. Our troops and their families are counting on us and it makes us very happy to know we’ll be there for them.

Your commitment will be crucial, especially with the ever-changing landscape of global threats and budget battles that impact our military and veteran families on a very deep level.

Here’s to building on the many successes we enjoyed in 2015 and continuing our journey in 2016.

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 Nine deployments. Cross country moves. Injuries and surgeries. Stronger for it all.


Nine deployments. Cross country moves. Injuries and surgeries. Stronger for it all.

A study on military children that was published late summer in the JAMA Pediatrics of public-school children in California raised a few alarms. The study found that military kids were more prone to risky behaviors when compared to their civilian peers.

In response to the media coverage of the study, several military support organizations took issue with the negative portrayal of military children. It was in this conversation that I stumbled on ScoutComms account executive (and military brat herself) Margaret Clevenger’s piece on “We’re Having The Wrong Conversation About Military Brats.”  Clevenger points out in her essay that military life engenders many positive qualities in the children of those families. Adaptability, maturity, and resilience.

They are also the qualities that have served my three children well through years of Dad’s deployments, his injury and multiple surgeries and the years of transition that followed when he could no longer continue his service.

PCSSkillsFTW

Been there, done that…have a system.

 

A month ago, we dropped our oldest Navy brat daughter off at college. Among the glorious mess of boxes and general confusion, a sort of calm in the storm presided. Our daughter was a machine setting up her room and making it her own. Any call of “Oh, we should have brought…” was met with “We have one!” Her roommate’s Mom shook her head in amazementand commented about how organized and prepared she was. PCS skills for the win!

Conversations we have with her are full of excitement and an eagerness and joy at taking on this latest chapter in her life. She talks about the people she has met as if she has known them all of her life. On multiple occasions, she has referred to her college as “home.”

 

I firmly believe that she is adjusting as well as she is because of our time as a military family. The adaptability, maturity, and resilience, sprinkled with a little bit of wanderlust are serving her well. She isn’t caught up in the change, but the possibilities.

But, she is still young and on her own for the first time. So there are calls and texts. Sometimes, while she is walking to class and just wants someone to talk to. Sometimes, she needs a little reassurance she is on the right track navigating her new life. Sometimes, she just wants to hear Mom’s voice.

HarkUponTheGale

Wherever they go, military children embrace the possibilities despite the challenges. (The author’s daughter at her new home away from home)

The issue isn’t that she has some anxiety or fear, or even that she occasionally misses Mom and Dad, her siblings or the cats. She will experience stress and possible missteps and a failure or two. That’s to be expected. Of note is that she knows what to do when she does feel and experience those things. She has learned to cope, and is secure in the knowledge that someone has her back. These skills she learned as a military child. You might say it is trial by fire.

The challenges that military families and their children face are not insignificant, and can result in issues such as anxiety and behavior problems. This is true. Kids are kids, and how they react to circumstances out of their control is influenced by their individual gifts and experience. In fact, quite a bit of what occurs in a military child’s life is out of their control. Moves and deployments are going to happen. Goodbyes and separations from loved ones hurt. Military kids can experience a lot of those. But for every child that struggles with the stress of these factors, still others use the obstacles as fuel for growth and achievement.

Studies like the one stated above are important. They pinpoint issues that may need further study. But as Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University stated in the Wall Street Journal article on the study, “The fact that military and nonmilitary kids are different is certainly meaningful,” she said. “But we don’t know what it might be about military experience that’s producing these differences.”

Perhaps what helps military children succeed is simple: strong, secure and stable families and a community that cares. To a one, every successful military child that I know has that going for them. Somewhere out there is the answer, and the answer may be found in the stories of the military children that are doing extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

MCOY16_CallForNominations_instagram

Every year, Operation Homefront tries to bring awareness to the other side of the conversation through the Military Child of the Year Award®. The qualities Clevenger speaks of are the ones we’ve come to know well as we enter the eighth year of this program designed to celebrate military kids and their incredible achievements and contributions to their communities.

 

 

Help them have the right conversation about military kids. Nominations for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year Award® open October 15, 2015. You can learn more about the program at www.militarychildoftheyear.org

Other resources to help military children achieve:

Military Child Education Coalition

Syracuse University Institute for Veteran and Military Families

National Military Family Association

Military One Source

 

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