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Posts Tagged ‘help for military families’

“If you want to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead, you must be willing to walk alongside them, to lift and encourage them, to share moments of understanding with them, and to spend time with them…”

-Tony Dungy, The Mentor Leader.

Jessica Short has always been inspired by legendary NFL Coach Tony Dungy. His quiet strength of character, his calm under pressure, and his desire to dedicate himself to a power higher than himself are qualities she herself strives to demonstrate in her everyday life. They are also the qualities she sees in those who swear an oath to protect our nation in our Armed Services.

Jessica’s grandfathers served in the military, and she has friends serving across multiple branches. She had heard about Operation Homefront from a friend when she was doing research for the outreach program at her church and was amazed at all the work that Operation Homefront does for military families. So, when her employer DSW Shoes gave their associates the chance to “Leave Their Mark” by nominating a non-profit to potentially receive $75,000, Jessica immediately knew who she would nominate.

“I nominated Operation Homefront because of their comprehensive approach to helping our military families. They have programs for the military wives, the kids, holiday meals, transitional housing for vets and wounded warriors. I think people should vote for Operation Homefront to show support for the family members of our men and women serving in the military. They give up so much on a daily basis so we can enjoy the life we live I think it’s amazing that Operation Homefront focuses on making sure the families stay strong and have the support they need in any situation.”

Here is how $75,000 would further our mission of building strong, stable, and secure military families.

• Support transitional housing for our nation’s wounded, ill and injured at Operation Homefront Villages, or to realize the dream of homeownership through the Homes on the Homefront program.
• Support the Critical Assistance Program which comes to the aid of military families facing an unexpected financial crisis.
• Help ensure a military child has everything they need to succeed in school via the Back-to-School Brigade campaign.
• Help welcome the newest members of our military family at Star-Spangled Baby showers.
• Stand by our nation’s caregivers through the Hearts of Valor program.
• Give thanks this upcoming holiday season with the Holiday Meals for Military program.

Since inception, Operation Homefront’s Critical Assistance Program alone has provided over $21 million in financial aid, fulfilling more than 40,000 requests. 92% of all expenditures go toward delivering these crucial programs and services.

Looking beyond just this campaign, Jessica encourages everyone to think about Coach Dungy’s message, and take a minute to walk alongside our military families, helping in any way they can. “It’s as easy as looking around… they’re closer than you think, I promise. And it doesn’t have to be a big campaign, though you can do that. It can be as simple as buying a meal for a family, sitting and listening to their story or even a quick thank you for your service. Anything big or small to show your support is greatly appreciated.”

Or as simple as a quick click and vote for us in the DSW Shoe Lovers Care campaign. VOTE TODAY (and every day through August 15)!
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The paths our military walk carry them to places far from loved ones and friends as they protect our freedoms. Imagine the relief a family feels when the service member’s shoes are back on the doorstep at home. We strive to be there for their families when they are gone, and when they come home and need some support moving forward. Please help us win $75,000 in the DSW Shoe Lovers Care campaign and allow us to provide relief, resiliency and recurring family support to hundreds of military and veteran families across the U.S. Vote today (and every day through Aug 15) at http://shoeloverscare.com and share with #DSWShoeLoversCare

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by Christy OFarrell.

Marine Corps Sgt. Ruben Barnett, a single dad, and his 3-year-old son, Ruben Jr. are planning to go to Dave & Buster’s arcade in Columbia, South Carolina, to celebrate Father’s Day. The two often play games, go on outings and take road trips together because Ruben arranged his schedule to allow him to spend more time with his son.

Ruben now works at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, South Carolina. He prefers the schedule — working 12-hour shifts, but only 14 or 15 days a month — to his old job before he was divorced, working nights often from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., as an avionics technician on helicopters at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. Having enlisted in June 2009, Ruben changed his career field and schedule when he re-enlisted in 2014, the year after Ruben Jr. was born. He became a correctional officer at Camp Pendleton, California, and they moved in 2015 to Charleston.

Ruben said it can be a rough job sometimes. “Every once in a while, you’ll have one prisoner that’s not having a good day, and kind of just wants to make everybody else’s day miserable too,” he said. But serving in the military has “definitely more ups than downs,” he said. “I love the Marine Corps,” including the structure and the fraternity. “I’m proud to represent it and be a part of it.”

Ruben Jr. is proud too. His dad said he used to have a children’s Marine Corps uniform that matched his own. Ruben Jr. “always says, ‘that’s cool dad,’” Ruben said. “He likes the badge and belt.”

But things changed the day before Thanksgiving 2016. When Ruben and his son left for work and daycare early that morning, all seemed normal. About 90 minutes later, the fire department called to notify Ruben at his workplace. “When I got there, I could see [the fire] from way down the street and it was terrible,” he said. “I was crushed at first but there were a lot of people there to help me. … Everyone just had words of encouragement and helped me through it.”

The fire is still under investigation, but apparently started with a faulty Bluetooth speaker, Ruben said. Right afterward, he and his son visited his hometown in Indiana to see his dad and stepmom. Then they moved into temporary housing, not far from the burned unit, and after about a month, into a more permanent location.

Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin West.

The base housing office immediately secured a new place for the pair to live. But their new digs would have been empty since they also lost all their belongings, including furniture, clothing, household goods and food. “It was all just gone,” he said.

Operation Homefront arranged for BAE Systems in Summerville, South Carolina, to provide Ruben and his son $750 in gift cards to Lowe’s, Sears, Target and other stores, plus an additional $1,500 worth of goods, including a bed and mattress for Ruben Jr., a washer and dryer, many household items, and Christmas gifts and toys. “It was really nice,” Ruben recalls. “It was crazy like over time you build up so much stuff,” he said. “You buy stuff here; you buy stuff there. You don’t really think about how much you have or how much you’ve spent, or what you have until something like that happens.”

“I’d never heard of Operation Homefront until this fire,” Ruben said. “It was a huge relief. I was excited, I guess kind of at a loss for words.” Ruben said he was thankful that people who didn’t even know him would help. “I was grateful to be where I’m at and to receive the blessings. It’s not something that happens for everybody.”

“Hearing Ruben describe his ‘huge relief’ as a result of Operation Homefront’s support is precisely the impact we seek to deliver,” reflects John Pray, CEO and President of Operation Homefront. “We know that if we can help military families’ overcome their short-term financial challenges, we are able to ensure they stand a better chance for a brighter future — one where they thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.

“Thank you to Operation Homefront and BAE Systems,” Air Force Col. Robert Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander, said in a base publication about the fire. “This was a nice and gracious touch from our community.”

Ruben Jr. never saw the burned house, his dad said. If there was a bright side, it is that Ruben Jr. has enjoyed the places they moved to after the fire. The temporary house they stayed in initially for about a month had something his old house didn’t: stairs. “He just wanted to play on the stairs the whole time,” Ruben said. And at the one-level home they’re in now, the park and playground are practically in their backyard. “He just wants to go out the back door, right to the park,” Ruben said. “It worked out perfectly.”

Now, life is getting back to normal. On Ruben’s work days, Ruben Jr. goes to daycare from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The facility is only about 15 minutes away from their home, but not on base because there was a wait list for the on-base center. On his days off, father and son have fun. “We go get haircuts every week,” Ruben said. “In the military, obviously, I have to have a haircut. I don’t feel like it would be right for me to have a haircut and he doesn’t.

“I’ll pick him up early from daycare,” he continued. “We’ll go to the park,” indoor trampolines at Velocity Air Sports or Chuck E. Cheese pizza, where they eat one of his son’s favorite foods, a list that also includes pasta and chicken nuggets. “When I’m going out, he goes with me.”

Ruben expects to be in Charleston for at least another four to five months. “Hopefully, I get selected for promotion,” he said. “I’d like to stay in for the full 20 years.”

Ruben Jr. regularly sees his mother, who also lives in Charleston, but his father is his primary caretaker.

Ruben’s father was in the Marines before Ruben was born, so he did not experience military life when he was young. But he believes it will benefit his son, maybe even giving him a chance to learn another language, if for example, they move to Japan.

“You get to experience different cultures and different walks of life,” he said. “You meet different people and see how they live. It should be a positive thing versus just growing up and you only know one thing or one way of living. It’s a huge world out there. You’ve got to get out and see it.”

 

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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 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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