Memorial Day allows us to recognize the tremendous sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces, while also honoring their on-going service to their communities. This year, the leadership of the philanthropic sector inspired a renewed significance to that special day.
After nearly 13 years, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will come to an end and nearly two million service men and women will return home. This stateside surge presents new opportunities to offer support to military families as they transition home. Faced with challenges in employment and access to physical and mental health treatment, but also offering unique leadership and skills, we must ensure that our veterans have a successful return to civilian life.
As a reflection of our commitment to help meet these needs, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey has taken the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge with more than 30 philanthropic organizations to make sure that veterans and military families in our community receive the long-term support they deserve. We are proud to be working in close partnership with the Joining Forces initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and supported by groups from the nonprofit, philanthropic, and corporate sectors.
This effort includes a joint commitment of more than $170 million over the next five years to help create affordable housing, provide health and wellness services, support education and job training, prevent domestic violence, expand economic opportunities, and more.
For example, in the greater Newark community, the Healthcare Foundation has funded programs to provide enhanced case management services to veterans with behavioral health and addiction issues and who are homeless or living in transitional housing. We also funded special training for yoga instructors to better enable them to help veterans with various types of physical and emotional injuries, and last year provided funding to develop a series of videos for wounded veterans so that everyone — from vets with minor injuries to those who are dealing with amputations or PTSD — can, in group settings or in the privacy of their own homes, reduce their level of stress and improve their wellness and ability to function. Finally, the Healthcare Foundation will shortly host a roundtable meeting of government and non-profit professionals who provide services to veterans to discuss unmet needs in our community with the goal of issuing a request for proposals to fill those gaps later this year.
Philanthropy’s unique ability to collaborate across sectors, build consensus, and pool resources to make strategic investments in our communities must be part of the solution. That’s why the Council on Foundations, which is supporting the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge effort, is launching the “Veterans Philanthropy Exchange,” to allow philanthropic organizations to share best practices, address emerging needs, leverage resources for maximum benefit, and enlist more donors.
Organizations like the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey or the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which have led the way in supporting veterans and military families, can share their experiences and what they’ve learned. Blue Shield of California Foundation’s work to prevent domestic violence and raise awareness about how the trauma of war can affect loved ones at home can serve as a model for others to follow.
Similarly, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation can provide a wealth of valuable insights about its Mental Health & Well-Being initiative, or the company’s experience in hiring employees through its Veterans' Community Network. And the exchange will provide a repository for new research on veterans’ needs, such as the work conducted by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
For their commitment and selflessness, our veterans and military families deserve the best support. As Americans, we acknowledge their great sacrifice on Memorial Day. We are honored to be a part of group of philanthropic leaders that are dedicated to ensuring our service men and women receive the long-term support they deserve.