The Home Front Cares has seen the need for its services increase significantly since its founding in 2003. Started by Vietnam veterans Bob Carlone and Joe Henjum, the Colorado Springs nonprofit that provides emergency funds to pay essential life expenses including rent, utilities and car repairs, will be participating in the Give! campaign for the first time this year.
According to George Hayward, marketing and outreach manager for The Home Front Cares, airmen and soldiers released from the military often find themselves injured and unemployable.
“We now serve the whole state instead of just the Pikes Peak region,” Hayward said. “We did that because, as the wars are winding down, we see kids getting out of the service and coming back to Colorado hometowns and they can’t find jobs. They are disabled or have PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and have families to support. These are vets but they are young kids in their 20s and early 30s.”
Hayward said The Home Front Cares provides an important piece in assisting veterans and their families get on their feet as they transition out of the military.
“If someone doesn’t have a place to live or a place for their kids to sleep, they’re not worried about finding a job or going back to school,” he said, adding The Home Front Cares operates solely through donations.
“That’s why it’s important for us to be part of the Give! campaign. People think, because we serve the military and vets that we receive government funding. We rely 100 percent on donations and all that money stays in Colorado.”
“The military is discharging more people than the VA can handle.”
– George Hayward
[/pullquote]Hayward said the organization’s budget its first year was $43,000 and this year it surpassed $1 million for the first time. Since its inception, The Home Front Cares has raised more than $6 million for local veterans and their families.
The Home Front Cares is part of a larger network which includes Aspen Pointe, the Veterans Administration and military installations to provide emotional and financial counseling as well as referrals to specific support systems.
Hayward said the organization knows there are more veterans than it can possibly help.
“The military is discharging more people than the VA can handle,” Hayward said. “Last year we provided grants to 340 veterans and military families and made referrals for services to another 850 veterans.”
Hayward said the public’s awareness of the plights of veterans in Colorado Springs is high because of its military presence, but that isn’t always the case throughout the rest of the state.
“Colorado Springs is fortunate because many people in this town know someone who served in the military and they know the struggles of young, enlisted troops,” he said. “We actually face bigger challenges across the state.”
He said, because of the draft during the Vietnam conflict, nearly everybody either served or knew someone who served in the military.
“Only 1 percent of the population today serves or knows someone who has,” Hayward said. “In Colorado Springs, that’s skewed because 40 percent of the economy is tied to the military. This town can forget how easily forgotten military vets and families can be in the rest of the state.”
Give! is an annual year-end philan thropic initiative created to encourage everyone in the Pikes Peak region to get involved with local nonprofits, with a particular emphasis on catalyzing philanthropy from those 36 years old and younger.
Over the past five years, Give! has channeled $3.4 million directly to 113 local nonprofits while giving them access to matching grants, media exposure and dozens of hands-on training opportunities from local and regional experts.
It is a project of the Colorado Springs Independent alternative newsweekly and is conducted under the fiscal sponsorship of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
For more information on The Home Front Cares, visit online at thehomefrontcares.org. To donate via the Give! campaign, visit indygive.com/home-safe/the-home-front-cares. n CSBJ