WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 – First Lady Michelle Obama announced today a new philanthropic initiative which pledges over $100 million to help military families over the next five years.
Obama unveiled the program as she and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, marked the third anniversary of Joining Forces, an initiative they started three years ago that mobilizes all sectors of American society to support service members and their families.
“It’s called the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange,” she said during the event at the Washington headquarters of the Red Cross. “It’s going to allow these groups to do a number of things — share best practices, create new resources, recruit even more donors to support our military families in the years ahead.”
Many of these groups, Obama said, have been supporting these causes for years, and had already committed $62 million to military families by 2019.
“But they know that that is not enough if we’re truly going to meet the needs of these families,” she said. “We’re going to have to do more.”
“And so, today, they’re announcing that they’re pledging $102 million in new funding toward our military families over the next five years,” Obama said. “So this is a huge deal.”
The first lady thanked the Council on Foundations and the four main organizers of this effort — the McCormick Foundation, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, and the Lincoln Community Foundation.
“But we also know there’s more work to do,” Obama said. “So in the coming months and years, we need even more donors to join this effort so that we can fully support all those wonderful nonprofits and community groups that do such wonderful work for our military families every day.”
We have seen the effect, Obama said, this kind of financial support can have on organizations working on the ground to help our service members, veterans and their families.
“Philanthropic leaders like so many of you here in this room have helped to fund efforts like the National Military Family’s Association,” she said. “They give college scholarships to military spouses.”
“And we’ve seen it in the peer mentors and support groups that are supported from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors,” Obama said.
There’s a wonderful handbook for caregivers for our wounded warriors developed from Blue Star Families, she added.
Behind each of these efforts, Obama said, are thousands of stories of caregivers who felt less isolated after they spoke with a peer, stories of survivors who are no longer alone in their grief, spouses and children who have better opportunities for their future.
“Those are the stories behind Joining Forces,” she added.
“This effort is so much bigger than me or Jill or even events like this one. It’s about the military families who live in communities all across this country. And it’s about the veterans who have given so much to all of us.”
The first lady noted more donors and philanthropic institutions need to get involved because “it will take nonprofits doing the work on the ground.”
“It’s going to take businesses and government doing their part,” she said. “And it’s going to take all of us as neighbors and as citizens to understand who the military families are in our own communities, because there will never be enough organizations or institutions to reach every single military family.”
“But there are more than 300 million Americans,” she said, “and it is up to us to step up and fill the gap.”
Obama urged Americans to “find a way to reach out” by volunteering or donating money to charities that serve military families.
Do something, she said, to show these families that we’re here for them, now and in the years ahead.
“That’s what Joining Forces is about,” Obama said. “It’s about reaching out to these heroes, because we know they make our community stronger, they make our businesses more productive, they make our schools more vibrant.”
“It’s about turning the feelings we get from those wonderful homecoming videos into real, concrete actions that lift up our military families and show them how much they mean to us,” she said. “It’s about doing it not just now, but for the rest of their lives.”
The first lady thanked military families and all the “incredible” philanthropic and nonprofit leaders for taking this “huge step” and noted this is “just a first step.”
“We’re going to get more donors involved in this effort,” she said. “We’re going to keep reaching out to people all across the country.”
“No matter where you live or work,” Obama said, “you will be surrounded by a country that truly honors your service and your sacrifice, now and in the years and decades ahead. That is our pledge to you.”