Michelle Obama and Jill Biden Listened – Will You?

May 7, 2014

To an audience that included First Lady Michelle Obama and the vice president’s wife Jill Biden, Points of Light’s President of Programs Delores Morton illustrated how volunteers have changed veterans’ lives.

delores_morton.jpgDelores Morton

The event in Washington, D.C., last week brought philanthropic and nonprofit leaders together with the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative to launch the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge.

More than 30 philanthropic organizations and corporations have taken the pledge, committing more than $170 million over the next five years to support veterans and military families.

Points of Light is a member of the steering committee of the annual White Oak Conference hosted by Blue Star Families, which brings together the public and private sector to address the ever-changing challenges of military family life. The committee helped secure the pledges.

Following is an excerpt of Morton’s remarks, including what Points of Light is doing to help veterans and their families:

We’re all familiar with Lily Tomlin’s quote: “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”

Three years ago at White Oak, many of the folks in this room recognized that there was a gap in communities of all sizes in how organizations worked together to meet needs of service members, veterans and their families.

These organizations, determined that they were the “somebody” that was needed to help create a solution to this challenge and set out on an ambitious goal of bridging the gap between the more than 40,000 nonprofits dedicated to helping the military community.

The result of this collaboration between organizations like Give an Hour, Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America and the American Legion Auxiliary is the Community Blueprint, which has found a home at Points of Light. We are engaging volunteers and convening communities to create lasting change.

Since its inception, the Community Blueprint has engaged more than 298 organizations across more than 600 communities.

Through the Community Blueprint, we are collecting, creating and disseminating resources that encourage more effective collaboration and help communities to leverage all of their available resources – especially volunteer power – to meet needs of America’s warriors and their families. The Community Blueprint’s on-the-ground work takes advantage of the individual skills that veterans can bring to bear in communities to address complex problems.

Points of Light and our partners are working together every day to create programs that benefit both veterans and military families, including two AmeriCorps programs – the Veteran Leader Corps and VetSuccess on Campus.

These AmeriCorps programs demonstrate the collective impact that occurs as a result of cross-sector collaboration – bringing together the Veterans Administration, companies like UPS and Exelis, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

An example of what this looks like in practice is the Bridging the Gap initiative started in partnership with the San Antonio Veteran Coalition and Veterans Leader Corps members. This coalition represents 120 organizations that have connected 400 veterans in rural communities with services that include employment, counseling and education.

Not only are we seeing organizations come together to create more opportunity, we also see the benefits of these partnerships for veterans. Veterans like Marsha J., an Iraq war veteran and single mother who struggled to find stable employment to support her children.

Because of the work of Robert W., a Veteran Leader Corps member stationed at Volunteers of America Chesapeake, Md., Marsha was connected to one of our hiring partners. Within two weeks of their first meeting, she secured a meaningful job as an executive assistant at a defense contracting organization. Marsha conveyed to Robert that that because of our work, she’d gotten back her sense of hope.

While I could quote the statistics that state we have reached more than 10,000 veterans in the first two years of the Veteran Leader Corps program, or supported almost 800 student veterans in just the last five months during which we have operated Vet Success on Campus, it is more meaningful to bring this work to life for you.

Our VetSuccess On Campus program – a pilot initiative in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs – has helped many veterans understand and access the education benefits available to them.

People like Kaleb W., a disabled veteran looking for ways to increase his chances of securing a better job with his brain injury. Because of the work of Amanda Linville, a VetSuccess member and military spouse at Boise State University, Kaleb is enrolled in school pursing a college degree using his Veteran Education Benefits.

Stories like these and many others are only possible because of the strong public and private partnerships that we have made.

I invite everyone to learn more about what we are doing to change communities and how your organization can get involved.

Read more about the Community Blueprint and other Points of Light programs serving veterans and their families at www.pointsoflight.org/veterans