The last year has been a time of great progress and planning for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and America’s military and veteran caregivers. In the time since we announced the launch of Hidden Heroes: The National Coalition for Military Caregivers, our earliest partners have founded programs focused on addressing the gaps in support identified by the RAND report commissioned by the Foundation. These new and enhanced services for those caring for our wounded, ill and injured warriors are meeting a dire need, and we look forward to seeing them grow in the future. As we look ahead and consider the urgency of the work we have left to do, it is clear that continued collaboration will be critical.
In October, I had the pleasure of speaking at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and meeting separately with top leaders in Indiana working to support our veterans and their families. During my remarks at IWU, I announced one of seven Impact Councils our Foundation will convene early next year to further address the challenges facing our Hidden Heroes. This council will be an interfaith initiative, comprised of a diverse array of religious organizations and faith groups. Faith support is one of the most frequently sought sources of help by military and veteran caregivers. Communities of faith are also uniquely able to reach caregivers from big cities to small towns across America, and they can offer any number of support services to the Hidden Heroes in their communities.
Our second council, focused on employment and workplace support, was announced at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Caregiver Summit on October 30. This announcement was particularly special as it came with a commitment from Eric Eversole, Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to chair the council. Eric and the Chamber have been incredibly supportive of caregivers since we first met on the issue, and I am grateful to have their continued involvement and leadership in such a critical area.
Five additional councils will be established to address the following issues, all guided by the evidence-based findings of the RAND report:
- Community Support at Home
- Respite Care
- Education and Training
- Mental and Physical Health
- Financial and Legal
Our Elizabeth Dole Fellows have already been meeting to provide further feedback in each of these areas and they are being integrated into the councils to provide their thoughts and ideas as active caregivers.
I hope you had a moment to watch some of the great Veterans Day week coverage on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family program, focused on caregivers. On Veterans Day, I joined Jim Williams, CEO of our great partner Easter Seals, in an interview about military and veteran caregiving. Later in the week, Elizabeth Dole Fellow Betty Easley and a wonderful caregiver representative from Easter Seals, Andrea Simone, were also interviewed about the caregiver’s perspective on the challenges of America’s Hidden Heroes. You can still watch the segment with Jim and me online. There is great power in collaboration and it was wonderful to spotlight our coalition in action. Jim and his team have been wonderful partners!
The holidays are my favorite time of year as we all take time to give more to others and reflect on everything for which we are thankful. This holiday season, I will be holding our nation’s caregivers, and all the individuals and organizations that have come together in support of our Hidden Heroes, close to my heart. For each of you, I am extremely grateful. I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!