Thursday, August 28, 2014

Labor Day: Strengthening Our Vets to Lead the Nation

As we approach Labor Day, it is important to recognize that many of our service members are transitioning out of the military and into new civilian careers.  Today, our president, Robin Kelleher, e-mailed a letter highlighting the importance of our program work in supporting veterans' employment. 

If you missed this letter and be sure to sign up for our eNews.

Robin's Letter:

In recognition of Labor Day, I want to share a story of success and awareness about the challenges facing veterans entering the work force.

Matt was struggling with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) after serving in combat as a member of the National Guard.  Feeling misunderstood and out of place with his own family, he left, determined to solve his problems alone or die in the process.  With his former home state of Indiana behind him, he roamed more than 1,000 miles southwest, until he reached New Mexico.  He had no home, no money, and no hope.

“I’m going to get help or die, and I don’t care what comes first.”

Fortunately, he reached out to Derek, a friend and fellow veteran for help. Matt shared that he was prepared to die, but was reaching out to his friend for help. Derek called Hope For The Warriors® team member, Amber Johnson. As a Critical Care Coordinator, Amber assists veterans daily with physical and mental health needs.  Through her years of experience, Amber has developed strong relationships with VA staff members and advocates for the needs of our service members.

Less than 48 hours later, Hope For The Warriors® had identified and secured a place for Matt in an inpatient program for veterans with PTSD, purchased a plane ticket, and through staff and volunteers, Matt was getting the help he needed.

That was more than a year ago.  Matt is still in the inpatient facility but has enrolled in college and is working towards his new career goals.  He has also reconnected with his family. Today, he has hope.

Labor Day

The headlines tell us that the unemployment rate for veterans outpaces the national average.  My e-mail inbox is flooded with invitations to veteran employment symposiums, conferences, and career fairs.  Almost daily I hear advertisements on the radio.  And yet, the unemployment rate remains higher for veterans than for non-veterans.

Hope For The Warriors® recognizes that in order to address the employment needs of veterans, it is imperative that we address their physical and psychological wellness first.  Our four program pillars provide a full cycle of care, working together to address the needs of the entire military family. Yes, we have a Career Transition & Education program but for Matt and thousands of other veterans, a job offer is not enough. They first need support in their physical and psychological recovery.  First, they must have hope.

Please join us in our mission to restore self, family, and hope to each of our service members, veterans, and military families.  DonateToday.

Very sincerely,

Robin Kelleher


#tbt Above & Beyond Program

Dan Moran (Left) with his mentor, Rich Wood (Right) 

In honor of Labor Day, we highlight Marine Captain and Board of Directors member, Dan Moran, who was one of the first service members to attend our Above & Beyond Program in 2009. He is shown here with his mentor and fellow Board of Directors member, Rich Wood, President of Plaza Construction. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Following Up with Oso

As part of yesterday's National Dog Day, we posted a blog from 2012 highlighting what one service dog was doing in the life of a service member. We then received an email from that service member's family, updating Hope For The Warriors on where they are two years later:

Life has been a little crazy since my husband was Medically Retired from the Army in December 2012. Took a while to get used to the civilian life again. It was hard but now we are enjoying the retirement life.

First I want to say thank you for all the help your organization has given to our family. Don't know what we would have done when we were at our lowest.

My husband and Oso are doing amazing. Their bond is so strong and unbreakable. Oso is so big now. He's over 90lbs and is the biggest lap dog the husband has ever had. Oso loves making everyone happy.

Living with a loved one that suffers with invisible wounds is difficult. I try my best to make life better for our family but sometimes life, people, and other triggers make it difficult. We have more bad days than good. I hate what war has done to my husband and to our family. This is the new normal and there are days that it sucks but I won't run away from it all because I love my husband too much. Oso helps me on those bad days. He does what I can't do. His loving energy makes Richard feel better.

We are now living and loving the retirement life. We have 16 acres of land in Arizona. The husband has a little ranch to keep him busy. He has 31 chickens, 15 turkeys, 4 LaMancha goats and 2 horses. All these critters keep us busy even if he's having a bad day.

I am so grateful for all the help that I am getting ready to pay it forward and help. So many spouses are suffering in silence and don't know what to do. I understand them and want to help them and make our country aware of this. PTSD not only affects our service members but also their families. So many are suffering and taking their lives. So many spouses become widows and are left with unanswered questions. I want to help them. I am now planning something exciting to pay it forward. More details to come soon!

Lots has happened in our lives and happy to share it with you all because you all are part of the Hall Family.

Thank you,
Richard & Noemy Hall

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NJ Service Member Finds a New Hobby & Hope Beyond Treatment

A recent visit to a couple veteran communities in New Jersey allowed Hope For The Warriors® staff members to meet an extraordinary man on his road to recovery.

While receiving treatment for PTSD, this inpatient service member, Gavin, was recently taught the game of golf by visiting professional golf players. He quickly fell in love with the sport and was invited to participate at a local Mental Health Golf Tournament. To prepare him for this amazing experience, he was donated a set of golf clubs. The only thing missing for his perfect day was a pair of golf shoes. 

That’s when Hope For The Warriors® stepped in. We donated a $200 Visa gift card for Gavin to purchase shoes, along with a golf jersey for him to wear at his tournament. 

Gavin's caseworker, Jennifer Garcia, of the Brick Township, NJ VA

Gavin has since signed up for our Outdoor Adventures Program and hopes to soon volunteer and participate in events. This cycle of involvement means the world to us. When we step in to fulfill meaningful requests and wishes from service members, they so often realize in themselves a way of life they never saw possible before. And, more often than not, it all comes down to something as simple as a pair of shoes. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Communications Intern Finds Meaningful Experiences & Professional Development in Nonprofit Work

By Brandy Hamilton, Summer 2014 Graphic Design Intern

I am a senior at Randolph-Macon College double majoring in Studio Art and Arts Management. This summer I interned as a graphic designer with a nonprofit organization called Hope For The Warriors® based in Annandale, Virginia.  This organization works to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families, and families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty.

I was introduced to Hope For The Warriors® through my stepfather, who is a veteran.  My family has worked very closely with this organization and I had become pretty familiar with it before I began college.  My parents even gave a lot of their time to helping this organization by getting a disaster relief team together and traveling to New York to help with Hurricane Sandy relief, where Hope For The Warriors® has an office.

When I made my decision to attend Randolph-Macon College, I received a letter and a gift from the President/CEO, Robin Kelleher, who is a Randolph-Macon College alumna.  Robin has always been a wonderful help to my family and me, even connecting me with organizations offering military family scholarship opportunities for my school tuition.  When it came time to complete my academic internship for my major, I knew Robin would be a great resource.  I was then contacted by Anne Barnwell, the Senior Director of Communications at Hope For The Warriors®, who informed me that there was plenty of graphic design work for me to gain experience from this summer.  

When I began my internship in May, my biggest concern was how I was going to learn all the basics of graphic design and complete it to professional standards. After a few weeks of the internship I learned that my professional development was as important to Hope For The Warriors® as it is for me.  I was given feedback on all of the work that I completed, even if it meant making several attempts to get there. I was also asked throughout my internship if there was anything Hope For The Warriors® could do to advance my professional development.  

In addition to how Hope For The Warriors® benefited me, I learned how important my graphic work was for the organization. Hope For The Warriors® has a graphic designer who already has a huge amount of work on his plate; I was able to help the organization through my work. I created visuals that help supporters feel appreciated and inspired. I created graphics that could be used as profile pictures and cover photos on social media. I worked on documents that would help the organization raise money through sponsorship. 

I learned many things about nonprofit work, the professional world, and graphic design from my internship this summer. I think the most important thing I took away from this experience is how important it is not only to gain skills, but also what one can give to the academic internship opportunity.  That’s why I believe working for a nonprofit organization was the best choice I made, and definitely the most rewarding. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mattress Donations Provide Comfort & Hope to Hundreds of Healing Service Members

In the past couple months, Hope For The Warriors® has distributed hundreds of Tempur-Pedic mattresses to service members and military families in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina regions. Providing these mattresses is an important part of our program work with families, especially for wounded service members that need a better mattress while they are recovering from injuries.

A high quality mattress is often needed by wounded service members, especially those struggling with back pain as part of their injuries. According to Eugene Carragee, physician and editor of The Spine Journal’s September 2012 issue, which was devoted to the casualties of war, the number of service members evacuated from war zones for back pain has been as high as 60% of the wounded (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 2012).

A Marine in care at WWBnE picks up his mattress

Hope For The Warriors® also coordinated a donation to the Gary Sinise Foundation. Hope For The Warriors® works closely with the Gary Sinise Foundation to build homes for severely wounded service members across the country. Our organization has provided thousands of dollars to help build homes in New York, Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, California, and more.

All the queen mattresses palletized in the warehouse.

Distributing these mattresses to our families is a perfect example of how it really takes a village for Hope For The Warriors® to build community and accomplish our mission. Thank you to the following individuals and organizations for their help with the coordination of this donation:

Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, Inc., Rick Cantwell and Lane Ostrow
USO of Metropolitan Washington, Steve Ibarra
Gary Sinise Foundation, Jim Shubert and Cindy Bittick
Tempur-Pedic, Chuck Zdrojowy and Rhonda Durham
Sunbelt Furniture Xpress, Bryan Canipe

A Marine's friend helps move a full size mattress.

In April, Rick Cantwell of Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, Inc., called our organization. He had three truckloads of mattresses, 312 in total, coming to the Virginia area and was looking for someone to accept and distribute the mattresses. Our staff got to work identifying support for storage and distribution, as well as a list of recipients for the mattresses. The Ft. Belvoir USO has a warehouse and allowed Hope For The Warriors® access to as many mattresses as we wanted.

The mattresses were delivered to the USO warehouse at Ft. Belvoir in May. While we were arranging for pickup of the mattresses, USO encountered a conflict with the space and suddenly, we needed a new home to hold the mattresses. Steve Ibarra, the warehouse manager quickly distributed the majority of the mattresses.

Hope staff member Leslie Hunt and a Marine pick
up their mattress to load into their truck. 

Chuck Zdrojowy, in charge of charitable undertakings with Tempur-Pedic stepped in. Tempur-Pedic is already supplying mattresses to Ronald McDonald Houses across the country, but the company is interested in supporting other charities too. They agreed to donate the next several shipments (312 mattresses/3 truckloads each) to Hope For The Warriors®.

Through our work with Chuck and Tempur-Pedic, the company has also agreed to work the Gary Sinise Foundation to equip the smart homes they are building with adjustable Tempur-Pedic beds.

Several Marines help unload mattresses
into the warehouse. 

Jim Shubert of Gary Sinise Foundation was prepared to make a personal donation by transporting the mattresses to both Camp Lejeune and his warehouse. When he contacted his shipping company, Sunbelt Furniture Express, they refused to allow him to pay. Instead, they donated the transportation, a service that would cost thousands of dollars. A special thank you to Jim Shubert’s assistant, Cindy Bittick, who helped coordinate all of the transportation and shipping.

A working party of Marines unload the
second truck of queen mattresses.

The first truckload of mattresses was delivered to Camp Lejeune on June 23 and the second was delivered on July 9. The mattresses were delivered the following week to be enjoyed by the families receiving them. Clearly, this donation was no easy feat, but many surprising connections were made along the way. So many caring individuals and companies were involved in making these mattress donations possible, and we thank each and every one for going above and beyond to support our service members and military families.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

#tbt Walter Reed Family Picnic 2012

This photo from our annual picnic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland demonstrates how our support to families begins at bedside. It's important to remember that this is where many of our first connections with service members begin, but our involvement remains steadfast throughout their road to recovery. We're proud to have the opportunity to begin serving these heroes at Walter Reed and develop relationships for the long haul.