Two military nonprofit organizations in the Pikes Peak region will merge by the beginning of next year — a move officials say will lead to more efficiently serving the area’s veterans and active military population.
“This is a great opportunity to streamline access to one of our critical services, and hopefully do more for our military veteran community with less overhead,” Hatten said.
Clients of both organizations should not expect any interruption in services, Hatten said.
“We will continue to do the work that both organizations do,” she said. “We’ll just be doing it together come the new year.”
Hatten will remain on staff to lead the combined organization, while THFC executive director Shawn Kelly will step down, she said.
“He’s got a new gig lined up,” Hatten said. “Both organizations are short-staffed, so we will be a very robust organization.We’ve had some attrition over time because we knew this was coming on.”
The merger will beget significant cost savings — a minimum of 25 percent of gross revenue — “that can now be spent on programming that has an immediate and positive impact on our clients,” according to a Sept. 26 letter from THFC Board Chairman Tony Przybyslawski and Steve Dant, PMCN board chairman.
But for retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, former deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of the U.S. Element at the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, the decision goes far beyond monetary savings.
“The obvious thing that some people would use is you’re going to save resources by combining the processes and procedures into a single one,” said Anderson, who currently serves on THFC’s advisory board and previously served on PMCN’s board. “That is true, but that should not be what the measure of success is. The measure of success for us is, are we adequately taking care of these people?”
Both nonprofits were founded in the early 2000s to provide relief for active-duty service members at the height of U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Anderson said. More than a decade later, “that is not necessarily the case,” he said.
“Things have changed a lot since both organizations were formed,” Anderson said. “We still have a lot of active-duty members who need help, particularly those who transition [to civilian life], but we also have a lot of veterans who need help — and not just Iraq and Afghanistan [veterans], but Vietnam and others.
“We realized it would be a lot better for us — and more importantly, for them — if we were to combine our resources and be more efficient and demonstrate how much we care for those folks. That’s the bottom line. We are very passionate about that, otherwise both of us wouldn’t have been in business for so long.
“The combination of the two just made sense,” Anderson added, “so we’re going to do it.”
PMCN works with 48 partner agencies, as well as the area’s military installations and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to connect service members with a wide range of resources in the Pikes Peak region. For the past several years, THFC — which provides emergency grants for veterans to pay essential life expenses like rent, utilities and car repairs — has been PMCN’s No. 1 referral agency, Hatten said.
The merger will create a “one-stop shop” for veterans to not only address their immediate needs, but also their root causes, Anderson said.
“People call The Home Front Cares because it’s an emergency — they’re being evicted, their power is being turned off, any number of things,” he said. “The Home Front Cares does a great job of fixing that, but what we then need to do is take a look at why are they having those kinds of problems — Is it financial management? Do they need a job? Are there drug problems? — so you can provide a complete solution to what started as a problem just to get some money for turning on the electricity.
“What we’d like to think is we’re going to be able to provide a total solution,” Anderson said, “not just a solution to an isolated problem. Those problems are too complex to be able to handle [with a] single solution.”
In order to qualify for THFC assistance, clients must show they have a financial plan — which is where PMCN can step in with long-term case management services, Hatten said.
“A lot of folks are willing to come and get help when they’ve got a financial crisis, and we can provide long-term case management. We might work with an individual or family for several months. … not just kick the can,” she said. “So part of it is educating those who may not need assistance now, but might later.
“We’re trying to reach people where they are to provide information on what’s available in the community, and helping them navigate that,” Hatten added. “We’ll do an assessment and find out what their needs are, and ideally connect them to the right services the first time.”
Ultimately, the goal is to make sure all partner agencies understand military culture in order to work together and know how to connect, Hatten said.
“So if they go to one agency like the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, rather than having the Workforce Center say, ‘We don’t do that; we do jobs — good luck,’ they can say, ‘We don’t do that, but we know who does,’” Hatten said. “Again, we can work together and collaborate to provide the full spectrum of needs.”
Many veterans seeking short-term financial assistance may not even be aware which long-term resources are available to them, Hatten said, and PMCN can help with that.
“We continued to find out that people just don’t know what is available to them,” Hatten said.
When it comes to veteran care, “follow-up is a key ingredient,” Anderson said, which means clients benefit that much more from streamlining the services.
“As I said, the problems are complex. You can’t just do something like give them some money or push them to one of our providers and expect that the problems are necessarily going to be solved,” Anderson said. “We do follow up to make sure the problems are fixed and we’re not encountering new problems.”
Both staffs are dedicated to providing the highest possible quality of care for their client base, Anderson said.
“We are pretty passionate about this,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it was going to be a better service — not just for the community but specifically service members and their families.”
Hatten said that throughout the negotiation process, which began in May, the prevailing question has been: “Can we better serve the military community?”
“The answer was yes,” Hatten said. “It’s been a good fit. It was really clear the synergies were there and we provided complementary services. [The merger] broadens our scope and our ability.”