Tens of thousands of organizations exist to help veterans, their spouses, and their children. But finding the right help at the right time — and from the right place — can be a challenge.
That’s where the Military Families Program is stepping in.
The new initiative, a collaboration between two established groups for veterans, provides military families with an ecosystem of support resources to help them address the challenges of military life.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” said Emma Dockery, a founder and board member. “What we’re trying to do is find creative ways to be able to highlight the countless wonderful organizations out there that are currently doing some great work in that space … ”
Dockery, who co-founded Yellow Ribbons United with her husband, former NFL player Derrick Dockery, had gotten to know retired U.S. Army Capt. Scott Davidson, a co-founder of the Veteran Success Resource Group, through their work with the Washington Football Charitable Foundation.
As they talked about their own experiences — Davidson, as a veteran and military spouse, and Dockery, as a child of a service member — and shared what they were hearing in the field, they agreed there wasn’t a comprehensive approach to supporting the military family as a unit.
“What we realized was, there is a gap,” Davidson said.
They knew military families were facing unique struggles, such as multiple deployments, PTSD, and managing permanent change of station (PCS) moves during a pandemic, a challenge at the best of times made much more difficult by the complexities of virtual learning.
Even though numerous support resources exist, military families are struggling to sort through the mountains of information available through Google, Dockery and Davidson said.
“We wanted to be a one-stop-shop where we could vet all of the amazing resources that are out there, for the military spouse, the veteran, and the child, and we could direct them to a clearinghouse,” Davidson said.
In January, Military Families Program launched its website, https://themilfamily.org/, a searchable database of more than 6,000 vetted organizations — and counting — that exist to help military families, whether it’s just the veteran that needs help, or a spouse, a child, or the whole family.
The database includes “every topic you can think of,” Davidson said, such as scholarships, nutrition, employment, and transition. The site is simply designed and easy to search, both by topic and location.
“Here’s the topic. Here’s what you’re looking for. Here’s the resources that are out there,” Dockery said, describing the team’s approach.
The Military Families Program continues to add resources, vetting each one using references like Charity Navigator, to ensure the organization is in good standing.
In the course of researching, Davidson discovered resources he had never heard of, like a free PTSD therapy program in Washington State that teaches veterans how to make bows and arrows.
“This will help solve and save people’s lives,” he said.
The Military Families Program initiative goes far beyond the website. In its inaugural year, Dockery said, their goal is “to reach and connect with as many families as we can.”
The program is planning several upcoming in-person and virtual events, including an official real-world launch on March 24 in Tampa, Florida.
Earlier this year, the Military Families Program was recognized by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for providing pizza to members of the National Guard, law enforcement, and first responders serving in Washington, D.C. during the inauguration.
Other events hosted by Military Families Program will touch on hot topics like mental health and food insecurity. The organization will offer military food markets in the Washington, D.C., area, a collaboration with former White House chef and retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Andre Rush, who is also a board member. These markets will provide military families in need with non-perishable food items, plus offer education about nutrition and how to access food benefits.
Military Families Program will also use events to raise money for relevant causes, like a bomb suit run in April to raise money for the Headstrong Project, supporting mental health services for veterans.
Events will always be free for military families.
“We don’t want any barriers to military families, at all,” Davidson said.