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Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’

Navy Hipsley full rez wcc operation homefront

Meet Hipsley!

It began with the need to do something.  To make a difference.

A dedicated group of volunteers with the Mid-Atlantic Field Office of Operation Homefront, concerned about the heartbreaking statistics surrounding veteran suicides, approached the Field Office staff with an idea. As part of their annual fundraising efforts, they wanted to support Operation Homefront – and support the training of a service dog for veterans recovering from physical and psychological wounds.

Though not a need addressed by Operation Homefront programs, the Operation Homefront Mid-Atlantic team knew they could help, as they are active in supporting the needs of families at Walter Reed and Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Belvoir. They also knew an organization that worked with service animals. And so began a unique partnership between Operation Homefront, the community, and the non-profit Warrior Canine Connection.

After 18 months of planning and fundraising solely by the volunteers with support from Operation Homefront, their wish became reality Wednesday as Operation Homefront presented Warrior Canine Connection with a check for $25,000 to cover the cost of training a puppy named Hipsley at Fort Belvoir.

Navy Hipsley full rez wcc operation homefront mom in memory

Jane Hipsley, herself a “puppy parent”, after learning that a puppy will carry on the name and legacy of her son, Sgt. Christian Hipsley.

Hipsley is named in honor of Army Sgt. Christian Joseph Hipsley, an Army medic who graduated from Hannah More Academy in Baltimore in 2000.  He was known as an individual who cared deeply for people and who found uncommon courage.  Sgt. Hipsley’s 13 years of service entailed three tours of duty in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.  Sgt. Hipsley was awarded the Bronze Star in 2011 for his efforts in saving five Afghan National Army soldiers after the caravan he was riding in was struck by consecutive IED blasts.  When the book was closed on his Army career, Sgt.  Hipsley had earned the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Valor and the Army Commendation Medal.  The soldier lost his battle with PTSD in 2014 at age 32.

Sgt. Hipsley’s mother, Jane, was in attendance as it was announced that a puppy would carry on the memory of her son by helping others.  Over the next 2 years, Hipsley and the other purpose-bred Golden and Labrador Retrievers will each empower 60 returning wounded combat Veterans. After this period, Hipsley will be permanently assigned.

margiwithpuppy

Margi Kirst, Chief Development Officer for Operation Homefront with the newest member of the military family.

 

“The beauty behind this is the connection between the community and donors who take the initiative to get involved, and the collaboration between non-profits.  It is the community coming together,” said Vivian Dietrich, Regional Director. “And at the end of the day, our mission of building strong stable and secure military families will be realized through the work of Hipsley with the Fort Belvoir families.”

Cyndi Lucas, Communications Outreach Leader for Operation Homefront Mid-Atlantic added, “It was unique opportunity to capture the passion of this group of volunteers. (Hipsley) will touch so many lives”

 

“We are extremely grateful to the enthusiastic group of volunteers from Operation Homefront’s Mid-Atlantic region who dedicated so much time and energy to raise the funds to train Hipsley at Fort Belvoir,” said Rick Yount, WCC founder and executive director. “In our work to serve more than 3,700 Veterans since WCC started, we have seen firsthand the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in combating symptoms of PTS and TBI.  We are fortunate to have partners, like Operation Homefront, who are equally committed to supporting our nation’s Veterans and their families.”

region4volunteers

Working together to make a difference: Operation Homefront National and MidAtlantic staff with the “REDS” team volunteers.

About Warrior Canine Connection: Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that utilizes a Mission Based Trauma Recovery model to empower returning combat Veterans who have sustained physical and psychological wounds while in service to our country. Based on the concept of Warriors helping Warriors, WCC’s therapeutic service dog training program is designed to mitigate symptoms of PTSD, TBI, and other challenges, while giving injured combat Veterans a sense of purpose, help in reintegrating back into their families and communities, and a potential career path as a service dog trainer.  For more information, go to www.warriorcanineconnection.org.

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harveyThough they were unable to wear a military uniform themselves, Ken and Ruth have always deeply admired the valiant men and women who serve our country. So they decided to answer the call in the best way they could.

After the events of September 11, 2001, Ken and Ruth Harvey realized that the rights, freedoms, and safety—something they had taken for granted—were not guaranteed. The couple knew that the attacks would trigger a conflict that would require our American service men and women to fight beyond our shores to secure our nation’s safety. Ken and Ruth admired those who sacrificed so much for their fellow countrymen.

Ken and Ruth also worried about the health and wellbeing of service members and veterans who have returned from overseas service. ”You’d assume that the soldiers who are wounded or returning with PTSD would be given more post-action care. While there is a structure in place, it’s not at the level that we would expect,” Ken said. Ruth maintains that Operation Homefront is addressing the problem in a positive, helpful way. “For every dollar we give most of it is going back to military families, so that’s great,” Ruth said.

The Harvey’s strong desire to support the military inspired them to search for a nonprofit that would allow them to make a difference in the lives of service members and their families. Ken and Ruth researched military nonprofits from a leading charity rating agency, and as a result, they chose to give to Operation Homefront.

“Operation Homefront takes resources from a person or a company and channels it to the highest need. It’s hard to imagine a more efficient organization getting that done,” Ken said. One of his goals was to ensure that his money would truly make a difference in the lives of military service members, wounded warriors, veterans, and their families.

Vets-Day_blog_icontactRuth and Ken give to Operation Homefront programs, such as Homes on the Homefront, because they want to see the lives of military families transformed, and the couple wants to be part of that impact. “Operation Homefront is giving families the tools they need to help them manage their finances. Operation Homefront is teaching them skills, and it’s different than charity; it’s trying to create something that’s going to last throughout their lifetimes,” said Ken.

Operation Homefront would not exist if it weren’t for donors like Ruth and Ken. They allow us to help military families in their hour of need. You too can make a difference and answer the call, in lots of ways, to support military, veteran and wounded warrior families. Find out more at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall .

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Today, AmeriCorps celebrates 20 years dedicated to making an impact in communities throughout the United States. Through AmeriCorps, more than 900,000 Americans have served more than 1 billion hours over the past 20 years. Thousands of communities and millions of Americans have benefited from their service.

At Operation Homefront, we have welcomed many AmeriCorps members inside our four walls. Each of them have brought their unique talents and insight to make our organization stronger. One such member, Vickie Starr, shares what the AmeriCorps experience has meant to her:

vickie-operation-homefront-americorps

Vickie Starr, who worked as an AmeriCorps member for Operation Homefront, landed her dream job in our communications department.

At a non-traditional age, I completed my Master’s degree. And like most college graduates, I was eager to join the work force (again). And ready to eat something other than Ramen noodles.

Instead of moving in with my parents until I found a job, I moved in with my son. Resume’ in hand, I filled out many applications.

AmeriCorps called, and I was extremely interested…until I found out that I would be a volunteer and receive a small stipend. I had just scraped through four years as a college student, so I really didn’t want to be a broke AmeriCorps volunteer.

But there was a huge dilemma. The AmeriCorps position with Operation Homefront was my dream job. And I really wanted my dream job.

My son agreed to let me live with him for very little rent (I think he forgot his years of free rent under my roof). My car was paid off, my student loans would be deferred for a year, and my medical would be paid for. Financially, I could make it work.

On July 30, 2013, I joined AmeriCorps and Operation Homefront. Unbelievably quick, my year flew by. I learned so many new things and developed valuable skills. Certain moments and experiences will be forever etched in my memories:

  • One mother, Donella, told me that she cried when her son arrived home, as part of our program to fly service members home. And she cried when he left too.
  • Purple Heart recipients were given toolboxes by the Sons of the American Revolution. They were touched by the gift. I was touched by the sacrifices that many of our veterans have made for their country.
  • Too cute kiddies came to our Back-To-School Brigade in San Antonio for free school supplies, joined by thankful and grateful parents that had one less thing to worry about.
  • One young son, whose family had just received a mortgage-free home, flexed his muscles during a key ceremony. I think he knew that receiving a home would strengthen his family.
  • That first thank you letter I got from a family that received food assistance is something I’ll never forget.
  • I tried not to cry as I attended a Homefront Celebration and listened to Michelle Cuthrell speak about her life as a military spouse. I cried any way.
  • It was cold outside as we pushed buggies loaded with groceries out to the cars of service members during our Holiday Meals for Military program. But my heart felt warm.
Operation Homefront staff in San Antonio helped welcome some of our newest AmeriCorps members to our organization. We're looking forward to a great year of helping military families.

Operation Homefront staff in San Antonio helped welcome some of our newest AmeriCorps members to our organization. We’re looking forward to a great year of helping military families.

 

I could go on and on about my experience working with dedicated Operation Homefront employees who truly love their jobs and helping out military families.

Every story should have a happy ending. This one does too. I am now a full-time employee at Operation Homefront. Thanks to AmeriCorps, my dream job is now my reality.

 

 

 

In 2010, Operation Homefront (OH) began its partnership with AmeriCorps by bringing on board Michael Heymsfield to work in public relations. Since then, 29 AmeriCorps members have augmented Operation Homefront in needed areas. Currently, OH has 16 AmeriCorps positions and two AmeriCorps VISTA positions. We were happy to celebrate with a swearing in ceremony today in San Antonio.

 

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This is a memorable day for all of us. Even if we didn’t know a single soul lost in the terrorist attacks, the catastrophe touched us all.

Operation Homefront was founded in the wake of those attacks. Once service members started deploying, concerned patriots saw the struggle families faced. They banded together to find ways to help, and their movement quickly grew.

Today we have chapters across the country made up mostly of volunteers. Nothing can make up for the lives lost and the families torn apart on this day nine years ago, but the people who’ve stepped up to serve in the military and in nonprofit organizations are helping our nation heal.

So thank you — to our military members, to our volunteers, our supporters and fellow nonprofit agencies. Today we remember not just the tragedy of the attacks, but the heroism, generosity and compassion that followed the devastation.

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