A group of nonprofits and charities dedicated to helping veterans announced Wednesday a campaign to raise $30 million to assist former service members.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit with 200,000 members nationwide, unveiled a Veteran Support Fund that will direct donations to itself and four other organizations. The initiative was staked by six entrepreneurs and philanthropists whose founding gifts totaled $1.1 million.
The partner organizations are Operation Mend, which gives medical support to critically injured veterans; Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides coping and trauma resources to survivors of deceased service members; Operation Homefront, which offers emergency financial aid to wounded warriors and families of service members; and the National Military Family Association, which advocates for benefits and programs to support military families.
"Supporting veterans isn’t charity, it’s an absolute necessity and an investment in our country’s future," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of IAVA, said in a statement. "After ten years of war, our nation’s military families are strained, nonprofit services are maxed out and our veterans’ community is severely under-resourced."
Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront, told msnbc.com that the increased funding will help the organization provide emergency assistance, like food, transitional housing and money for car repairs, to more families. Last year, Operation Homefront met more than 5,000 emergency requests and provided transitional housing for 80 families.
Knotts said that while the organization's fundraising has been strong in recent years, he is concerned that donations will dwindle as service members return from Afghanistan.
"A lot of people are thinking that we’re out of Iraq and we’ll be out of Afghanistan so our need to support the military will end soon," he said. "But it will be a 50-year campaign to support this generation of wounded warriors ... Even military families who remain will have ongoing needs as a result of 10 years worth of war."
IAVA said the initiative will be a "centralized platform where Americans can support and donate to a consortium of effective and trusted best-in-class veterans’ organizations."
Charity Navigator, which evaluates select charities and nonprofits, has awarded three- and four-star ratings to Operation Homefront, National Military Family Association and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and chief financial officer for Charity Navigator, said that donating to a veterans organization or charity can be an emotional decision.
"Supporting our troops, their families and the veterans are issues that tug at everyone’s heart strings," Miniutti told msnbc.com. "Oftentimes, donors give to these types of charities solely with their heart. They fail to stop and use their head too and vet the charities to ensure that they are financially healthy, accountable and transparent and produce real results."
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