Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade Gives Military Kids a Great Start to the School Year

Back-to-School Brigade

As calendar turns to August, many families are starting to think about going back to school — and for some military families the cost of school supplies is a growing concern.  Jim Knotts, CEO of Operation Homefront (OH) which is a national nonprofit assisting the military community (veteran, active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and their families), has watched this need grow over the years.

Knotts states, “With a 191% increase last year in requests for food assistance, we know our military families are struggling to meet the most basic of needs [and] without donations from the community, military families are forced to spend hundreds of dollars to provide their children with basic items needed for a quality education.” Fortunately, OH has a program that can help address this need: Back-to-School Brigade.

Every year, OH collects the supplies and donations needed to make backpacks for children in military families nationwide. Last year Back-to-School Brigade distributed 19,000 backpacks, saving military families an estimated $1.2 million dollars.

For more about this program, read the press release here. Registration started July 1, 2010 for families. Donations can be made any time through OH chapter websites. If you are interested in learning more about OH or other programs that help the children of military families, please visit the Warrior Gateway directory.

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California Organizations Help Veterans Take Up the Plow

Think of sustainable farming, and the first image that springs to mind may not be a 20-something veteran tending to avocadoes.  But as this great LA Times article points out, several California-based organizations are making that image a reality.

If you haven’t done so, check out the Farmer-Veteran Coalition profile in our Service Provider Directory – and, as always, be sure to share your experiences with this and other organizations.

Helping veterans transition to civilian life and earth-friendly farming – now there are two missions we can all support.

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Reflecting on the CIAV Conference

This week we’ve been at the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (CIAV) Conference, conveniently held just down the street from us. It’s been a great event, filled with a diverse group of speakers and attendees – veterans, non-profits, government programs, authors, filmmakers, members of the media, and more.

Devin presented on the Warrior Gateway on the opening day of the conference, and we received a number of good questions and feedback about the site. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat with us about the Warrior Gateway throughout the week – we always love to hear your thoughts and ideas and explain more about what the site does.

We also heard some excellent speakers and attended workshops that touched on topics ranging from job creation to fundraising to blogging. These sessions were all very informative; it was great to hear not only the expertise of the speakers but the thoughts and experiences of the attendees. We heard a lot about the current issues, challenges, and successes of service providers in the field.

Many of these issues and challenges were similar to feedback we’ve heard from service providers before — a need for a good database of organizations working with the military community; the desire to reach out more to one’s client base and attract new clients who would gain from your services; the difficulty (especially for small organizations) of maintaining an active, dynamic presence on the Internet.

And these are all ways in which the Warrior Gateway adds value to service providers, addressing these challenges and providing an easy interface for service providers to communicate with clients, and allow clients to easily find and connect with them.

This was the theme of our presentation at CIAV and, again, we were very pleased to talk with so many people about the Gateway. A special thanks to CIAV for your hard work in organization a wonderful event!

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New features launched for service providers: announcements, events, & responding to comments

We’re committed to making the Warrior Gateway a useful tool for service providers. Which is why we’ve added a number of features that should allow service providers to communicate with their clients more, right on their profiles in the Warrior Gateway Directory:

1) Announcements: You can now post an announcement or ‘Message to the Users’ on your profile page. This can be an announcement for a specific piece of information (e.g., “We’ll be closed on Monday”), a general welcome message (e.g., “We are a haven for military families; come join us!”); or anything else you like! You can post an announcement through the ‘Edit profile’ screen…

…and it will display on the right side of your profile, below the map:

2) Events: you can now add listings for upcoming events your organization is hosting, which users will see on your profile. Simply click the ‘add an event’ link below your organization’s description in your profile page…

…fill in the event info in the fields that appear…

…and your event will be displayed on your profile page:

3) Official responses to user reviews: we allow users to leave ratings and reviews about service providers listed in the Directory. We wanted these reviews to spur communication between you and your clients, so we added the ability to add an ‘official response’ to any user review left about your organization. Simply click the ‘leave a response’ link on any user comment on your profile…

…type in your response in the box that pops up…

…and your response will be displayed in a blue box directly below the user’s comment:

Please note that to use all these features, you must be logged in and you must have already claimed your organization’s profile on the Warrior Gateway.

All you service providers out there — give these new features a spin and let us know what you think.

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Are you a service provider with multiple locations? You can help us grow the Warrior Gateway Directory

We want service providers of all sizes and capacities to be included in the Warrior Gateway Directory, from the one-person shop to the big national organizations with thousands of branches or facilities.

If you are a large organization with multiple branches, we need your help to ensure that all of your branches are listed in the Directory. Here’s what we’d like you to do:

1) Submit to us a spreadsheet containing basic information for all your locations. The best place to get easy access to such a spreadsheet is probably the IT department at your national office. To make things easy for you, we have created a blank template spreadsheet that you can use to input data. It contains columns for the data fields we’d like to input onto the Directory; you don’t have to list all pieces of information, but the more the better. Please note though that column headers with an asterisk (*) are required fields.

2) Tell all your branches about the Warrior Gateway! Explain to them the benefits of the Warrior Gateway and request that each branch claim its profile. Once they sign up for an account and claim their profile, they can verify or add to the information we have listed for them and interact with users who leave ratings and reviews about them. Each branch could also start telling its clients that they are listed on the Warrior Gateway, and request that clients leave ratings and reviews about their experiences at that branch. If you would like us to help in crafting a message to pass along to all your branches, we’d be happy to! Just let us know.

And that’s about all! We thank you in advance for your help — a small effort on your part will go a very long way in making sure that users in the military community will be able to access your organization’s info quickly and easily.

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