One can scarcely turn on the news today without hearing the latest breathless take on the damage done by the current economic crisis. The refrain, from Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere is that it is a perfect storm. Whatever truth there may be to that analysis, it is a metaphor that is trotted out almost every time there is a hiccup, much less a real economic problem.
What we are experiencing has truly created the effects of a storm, however, as people prepare for the worst and react as if the worst were already here. One of the first casualties of any economic downturn are charities, and it is easy to find stories about real or anticipated drops in contributions.
Yet, if history is any guide, Americans will continue to give and could even increase donations as noted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which even has a special guide on philanthropy in troubled times. Americans have traditionally voluntarily given to others in times of crisis, be it a natural disaster or an economic downturn. This history and spirit of giving to those truly in need is a cultural foundation of our nation and its people.
It is with pleasure that we at Soldiers’ Angels report that despite the economy, that most major programs are continuing with the generosity of individual and corporate donors. Things are tight, but with the continued generosity of the public towards those who have served and are serving, Soldiers’ Angels will continue to be able to meet the demand.
“Soldiers’ Angels is very fortunate to have its direct mail program which has allowed us to keep care packages flowing out to deployed, backpacks to the combat support hospitals, vet packs to our VA hospitals,” notes Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers’ Angels. This program has grown out of the base of initial individual contributors, who helped the charity grow. Building off that base, the direct mail campaigns have reached out to a wider audience and brought in contributions that have allowed a second stage of growth for the charity.
The company behind them creates the mailings, provides the incentives, and raises the funds in exchange for a flat fee per piece mailed. It is important to note that the two companies doing the direct mail fund-raising believe in Soldiers’ Angels mission and have contracted for a smaller fee than for their other clients, so that Soldiers’ Angels gets more for their work.
Additionally, the direct mail campaign not only brings in significant funds to the charity, it also serves the purpose of advertising the mission of Soldiers’ Angels and opens doors to yet another level of donations. With this funding and more than 200,000 volunteers, Soldiers’ Angels now has the resources to pursue significant corporate sponsorships and participation in events such as the Combined Federal Campaign and other planned giving opportunities.
The individual donors who helped Soldiers’ Angels get off the ground remain the cornerstone of its economic foundation. Those who already know about the charity can, and do, make contributions directly to it for that purpose.
They are also an integral part of Project Valour-IT, which provides voice-activated/adaptive laptops and other technology to wounded or disabled veterans. In addition to the laptops, which are the heart of the project, WII game consoles and GPS units are provided as well. The WII systems work the whole body, and as such, increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists. The GPS and/or PDA units build self-confidence and independence by providing compensation for short-term memory loss and challenges related to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
All the equipment is given only at the request of therapists and caseworkers, and never frivolously. The success of this program has resulted in the development of a direct partnership between Soldiers’ Angels and the Department of Defense. Soldiers’ Angels donates the laptops directly to the soldier and DOD provides voice activated software and technical training to the wounded warrior. Since the soldier receives his own personal laptop, he is able to take it with him when he is discharged and thus maintain continuity with the hospital to his home.
This very special project has always been completely Internet and word-of-mouth driven in its fund-raising. Traditionally, an annual fundraiser kicks off on Veterans’ Day and ends on Thanksgiving, and a friendly competition between the services provides the means to raise a goal of $250,000.00.
Sad to say, this year finds us barely more than 27% to that goal. There are a variety of factors at work, and the economy and worries about the future are a part of that. The problem is, as Patti notes, “Without these needed funds, someone who fought for us will go without and that is heartbreaking. PTSD is on the rise and we are far from training a public on how they can help. After all It will take a Nation to heal a War. These laptops, GPS , WII’s and the like truly help these men and women feel special, important, that someone cares and that can mean a lot.”
You can help Soldiers’ Angels and the various teams meet their goal even at this late date. You can donate directly to Valour-IT and know that one hundred percent of the monies raised go to the technology provided and not to overhead or other costs. Or, if you would like to get something more than knowing that you’ve had a direct and positive impact on a wounded or disabled service member, you can get as you give via the charity auction.
This auction of signed books, and one special fleece blanket, was made possible by the generosity of seven authors: David Weber, John Ringo, David J. Williams, Travis “Doc” Taylor, David Drake, Dean Ing, and Mark L. Van Name. Each of them have donated signed books to be auctioned in support of Valour-IT. David J. WIlliams has even added maps of the world of his books to go with each of the volumes he donated.
One of the most humbling moments of my life was being asked to present some of these laptops at Walter Reed on my way home from my first embed in Iraq. Some of the most rewarding moments of this last year, if not my life, came when talking to recipients and hearing from them how much the laptops and technology had helped them and meant to them.
This year will see us examine how we want to meet the challenges for Project Valour-IT fundraising. With your help, we can still meet our goals and provide a direct and tangible benefit for those who have paid a blood price for us and our country. I ask you today to do what we have always done in times of crisis, and help those in need.