We are thankful for you!
Thanksgiving is a time to look back and reflect on what we are thankful for. We at Chicago Veterans are thankful to have so many blessings in our communities but the biggest blessing of all is you! We are thankful to have such an amazing community of volunteers that work hard every single day to make an impact in our city and help improve the lives of so many veterans. We are blessed to be able to personally see and hear the stories of veterans who are finding employment through us, who are buying a new house, who are getting married, and who are having kids, those who are finally receiving the benefits that they are entitled to. We want to see veterans continue to empower each other and build one another up through positivity. Our promise to you has been the same since we founded Chicago Veterans back in 2014, to continue pushing forward and putting in the work to help build a stronger veterans community and make Chicago a world-class city for our veterans and their family members.
Our Impact: How we build a community.
Our mission is to empower military veterans to take control of their transition throughout life. We define empower as sharing information and building meaningful relationships to help take control of one’s transition throughout life and their overall well-being. Empowerment is based on the idea that giving veterans the resources, opportunities, purpose, and motivation they need to become more productive in their communities and build that social support system they are missing after leaving the military.
Chicago Veterans introduces veterans to different forms of alternative therapy, community impact events, volunteering opportunities, social activities, family outings, and countless other events through our Social and Community Involvement Program. CV provides opportunities for veterans to connect and build meaningful relationships with one another and grow their social network. As one US Army and Purple Heart recipient said, “when I moved back to Chicago I didn’t know any veterans, I was on my own. If it wasn’t for Chicago Veterans, I would not be where I am today.”
Some veterans heal through art, some use music, dance, poetry or laughter. Earlier this year a few Chicago Veteran members took a trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which is famous for their horticultural therapy services. The Garden is a world leader in providing therapeutic horticulture experiences to visitors. While not everyone will benefit from the Gardens, there are definitely those who do. We encourage as many veterans as possible to attend one of our many community events and find which event, social group or veteran post that works best for you.
Without you, there is no us: Putting your donations to work!
We consider donations in two parts, volunteer hours and monetary donations. If it wasn’t for our volunteers there would not be a Chicago Veterans organization and if it wasn’t for the donations we wouldn’t be able to provide our services. Monetary donations help us continue providing our services to our community. Each event takes time and money to host, especially our larger events such as our Ruck March and Veterans Ball. Hosting these events takes a ton of volunteer hours to help put it together and requires someone to manage all the volunteers, logistics, planning, permits, and more. Which is why we officially hired our first ever Executive Director. Our Executive Director has taken a huge weight off the shoulders of our all-volunteer team and helps guide all our programming, answers calls, and emails from our community, manages our administration work as well leads all our events. The volunteer hours and monetary donations are the reasons why are social events, hiring fairs and community engagement are so successful.
Take for instance our Chicago Veterans Ball, this year was our largest yet with over 360 in attendance. It is a giant production and takes almost a year to plan. Veterans and especially their spouses look forward to this event year after year. It is a time to get dressed up, put on your military uniform and celebrate as one amazing veterans community. Many service members and their spouses never had a chance to experience a military ball which is why it is extremely important we continue the tradition we have for 4 years. As one attendee and First Division Commander of the American Legion said, “it was an honor and privilege for me to attend The Chicago Veterans Ball, to represent The American Legion Department of Illinois was indeed the highlight of my Legion career! I am so proud of our young Chicago Veterans.” One military spouse said, “I haven’t seen my husband smile and look this happy in years, he finally looks comfortable, thank you for hosting this event.” Not only does the Veterans Ball make a difference in the lives of our attendees it also helps those who volunteer.
Our Veterans Ball is one of our two Empowerment events, the second being the Ruck March. Our Empowerment events take months to prepare and often require dozens of veteran and civilian volunteers working together for a shared goal. These events allow volunteers and veterans to meet regularly, plan and execute their shared vision. Our volunteers are in constant contact with each other and often spend time outside of planing. This shared goal and sense of accomplishment are what continues to attract volunteers to Chicago Veterans.
Our Chicago Veterans Ball this year cost over $25,000 to produce and included over 1,000 volunteer hours to plan. Our gross revenue through ticket sales, donations, and sponsored tables have always been $5,000-$10,000 under the cost of producing the event. We are so thankful that our donations and our supporters throughout the year are what allows us to continue our programs such as Chicago Veterans Ball. Donors and supporters from all over the Chicagoland area donate and sponsor veterans who might be in financial hardship to attend our veterans ball.
What’s next for Chicago Veterans: A look at 2019
There is so much work still ahead of us, there are veteran issues we will continue to address from those leading our country, state, and city. The rate at which veterans are losing their lives shows us that we must do better as a community. That we must continue to work hard to keep our veterans safe, informed, and away from as much negativity as possible. Chicago Veterans strives to feed our community with positive information that will enable them to continue to grow and help others.
We have been approached by many organizations in an effort to help grow a community similar to Chicago Veterans in their city. The social support model that we are developing could soon help thousands of other veterans outside of Chicago. We have also been invited to sit on a few advisory boards for transitioning veterans in 2019 at the city and state levels to help even more veterans with the help of our government officials.
We are thankful for what we get to do every day, we are thankful to continue to serve those who have served. We are thankful for our volunteers, donors, family members and everyone who puts in countless hours to help build stronger veterans community in our city. We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we look forward to seeing you at our next event.
A Look back at 2018!