Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

4 posts categorized "Veterans"

5 Questions for...Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO, Fisher House Foundation

November 07, 2016

Since the early 1990s, the Fisher House Foundation has supported more than two hundred and seventy-seven thousand families of service members and veterans by providing lodging near VA hospitals and military medical centers where their loved ones are undergoing treatment. The foundation also awards scholarships to children and spouses of service members and veterans, administers the Hero Miles and Hotels for Heroes programs, which use donations of frequent flyer miles and hotel points to provide free airline tickets and hotel rooms to military families, and sponsors the Invictus Games.

Kenneth Fisher has served since 2003 as chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation and is co-chair of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, both of which were founded by his late great-uncle, Zachary Fisher. Ahead of Veterans Day, PND spoke with Fisher about the role of philanthropy in addressing the needs of service members and veterans.

Kenneth_fisher_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: Providing support to the families of service members and veterans traveling for medical treatment is a very specific area within the broader scope of veterans issues. What made Zachary Fisher decide to focus on it?

Kenneth Fisher: Everything started with the Intrepid. After Zach completed the conversion of the USS Intrepid to the museum it is today, he wanted to do more. So he called the wife of the then-chief of naval operations, Pauline Trost, who told him a story about the day she was at the Bethesda Naval Hospital [now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center] and saw a family run in, drop their bags in the lobby, and run up to the room to see their loved one. They didn't even think about a hotel. There was no real low-cost alternative to a hotel, there was no real housing on the base for those families, and there was a clear need. And Zach said, "This is my skill set. I know an architect; I've been a developer. I can build a house." And so it was decided that what came to be known as Fisher Houses would be built, on two conditions: First, they had to be free of charge. Second, they had to be within walking distance of a VA or military hospital.

That essentially was the birth of the foundation — one phone call that made Zach aware of a need that wasn't being met. We have a saying in our family that has been passed down over the generations: "Don't be somebody who points out problems — we've got too many of them — be part of the solution." So the roots of the Fisher House Foundation can be traced to that story but also to that philosophy.

PND: Over the last twenty-six years, more than seventy Fisher Houses have opened across the United States and in Germany and the United Kingdom. Has the need for these types of facilities near VA hospitals and military medical centers been fully met over the years? And do you expect demand to grow?

KF: Before 9/11, obviously the needs were different. People in the military aren't only hospitalized when they're wounded in battle — they also get sick or are injured in training accidents. But the need for family lodging was so basic and underappreciated that no one really ever thought about it.

After 9/11, we knew that building one or two Fisher Houses a year was not going to be sufficient. In fact, the first house we built after 9/11 was in Germany, which is usually the first stop for many men and women who are wounded in battle overseas and is where they are stabilized before they're sent home to the United States. But back then I looked at the budget and said, "How the heck are we going to meet the need?" And my answer to that question was to apply a private-sector mindset to the running of the foundation. By that I mean, every dollar would be accounted for. I wanted to know how much of each dollar was going to administration, going to fundraising, and getting to the people who needed the program. I was very focused on running the foundation as efficiently as possible. And as we built more and more houses, we got on the radar of the American public, and people responded in ways that I'd never thought possible. At one point we were building nearly ten houses a year. The program still needs to be ramped up, but I don't want it to grow so fast that we can't keep up with it.

Today, some Fisher Houses are running at 100 percent occupancy rates, some at 80 percent, some a little lower. Will we ever fully meet the need? Who knows? It's a difficult question to answer. I can tell you that if a family can't get into a Fisher House because it's full, we put them up in a hotel through our Hotels for Heroes initiative until a room opens up. Any family that comes into the Fisher House program will be taken care of. And by virtue of the support of the American public and the way the foundation is run, I think we're making a very, very positive impact in meeting that need.

Continue reading »

Memorializing Veterans by Helping Those Who Are Here

May 26, 2016

Soldier-and-daughter-300As America draws down its forces after fifteen years of military conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, Memorial Day seems like a particularly good occasion to share lessons and stories from a coalition of foundations and corporate funders that is working to help veterans and their families.

A projected one million soldiers will return to civilian life between now and 2020. While many service members make that transition without event, others struggle to overcome the lack of dedicated pathways to affordable education, for themselves and their children, or to prepare themselves for a job in the civilian sector.

What's more, many veterans do not receive adequate support as they wrestle with these challenges. That is why the Philanthropy Joining Forces Impact Pledge has secured commitments from more than thirty-five foundations and corporations to invest nearly $285 million to support those who have served our country as they transition back to civilian life.

The PwC Charitable Foundation joined this group eight months after making a five-year, $5 million-plus commitment to support some of the best veterans service organizations in the country. Our work with veterans and the organizations that support them has been a learning experience. The challenges veterans face are complex and different for each individual. However, if we really want to make a lasting, sustainable impact, we have learned that we need to:

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Charles Bailey, Director, Agent Orange in Vietnam Program

August 19, 2013

Headshot_charles_baileyFrom 1997 to 2007, Charles Bailey was the Ford Foundation representative in Vietnam. At the start of his posting, the war in Vietnam had been over for more than twenty years, but one of its legacies, environmental contamination caused by the U.S. military's use of Agent Orange, was an under-addressed concern. Bailey looked into the facts of Agent Orange use in the Southeast Asian country and began to develop a vocabulary that American and Vietnamese officials could use to discuss the issue. After a few years, Ford invited the Aspen Institute, which has expertise in facilitating difficult conversations, to initiate a dialogue around the issue, and the two governments began to talk. Eventually, the United Nations, other NGOs and foundations, and several European governments joined the conversation.

But one thing was missing, says Bailey, and that was a way to connect the American public to the effort. With his encouragement, Active Voice, a social documentary shop in San Francisco, put together a three-minute public-service video, "Make Agent Orange History," while San Francisco State University contributed fresh reporting to the discussion through its Vietnam Reporting Project. In 2011, Bailey moved to the Aspen Institute, where he continues to support dialogue, advocacy, and public education around the issue.

Recently, PND spoke with Bailey about the Agent Orange program and what remains to be done.

Philanthropy News Digest: Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang recently met with President Obama in Washington, D.C. Why was the meeting significant?

Charles Bailey: President Sang is the second Vietnamese head-of-state to visit the U.S. since the two countries normalized relations in 1995, and his visit was an important opportunity to celebrate the remarkable progress made since 2007 in at last addressing the legacy of Agent Orange. Over the last six years, our Agent Orange in Vietnam Program has had a hand in raising over $100 million to assist Vietnam to begin to deal with this legacy from the U.S.-Vietnam War. Even more important for the future, President Obama and President Sang issued a joint statement at the end of their talks on July 26 that contained a key statement: "The president reaffirmed the United States' commitment to providing further medical and other care and assistance for people with disabilities, regardless of cause."

I published an op-ed in the Huffington Post on the occasion urging both presidents to take advantage of this breakthrough and include language on disability services and rights as part of a new comprehensive partnership agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam.

Continue reading »

2012 Year in Review: Veterans Issues, Initiatives Gain Support

January 02, 2013

Yir_2012With the war in Iraq over and America’s long engagement in Afghanistan coming to a close, philanthropic investments in nonprofit organizations seeking to address the needs of returning service members and their families moved front and center in 2012, continuing a decade-long trend. But even with veterans issues getting more attention, thanks in part to 2012 Charles Bronfman Prize winner Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and founder of The Mission Continues, concerns grew over insufficient coordination in an increasingly crowded field.

Initiatives announced during the year in support of veterans and military families sought to address a range of issues, from employment and housing, to mental health and wellness, to access to higher education. In April, for example, the University of Southern California received a $10 million gift from alumnus and board trustee William J. Schoen and his wife, Sharon, to provide scholarships to veterans enrolled at USC's Marshall School of Business and Viterbi School of Engineering. In May, the Robin Hood Foundation, in partnership with the White House and the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced an initiative to provide job placement services to returning service personnel in the city, where veterans make up 20 percent of homeless adults. In a similar vein, the Walmart Foundation awarded $1 million to Goodwill Industries and $750,000 to Swords to Plowshares, a community-based organization that provides wrap-around care to more than two thousand veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area, in support of efforts to help veterans secure employment and long-term financial stability.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own...."

    — Lao Tzu (605-531 BCE)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs