In our busy, day-to-day lives, we plan for all sorts of ways to spend our hard earned money, from house/rent payments and electric bills to purchasing tickets to the latest movie. Apart from throwing change or a few dollars into the various charity buckets we often encounter, many of us (including myself) often forget about the wonderful impact we can make in the world by helping others through charitable donations, either when we are able or on a regular basis. In particular, donating to military and veterans' organizations is a great way to say "thank you" to those who have sacrificed their bodies, mental health, and oftentimes lives to secure freedom and democracy for our great nation.
My late Grandmother, Hazel, who would have been 95 today (February 16, 2017), inspired me to write this article. She was not only one of the most kind and caring people I've ever known, but she was also one of those rare individuals who worked tirelessly and quietly helping family, friends, our community, and children in need. I will always be in awe of her selfless generosity and kind soul. She wasn't monetarily rich, but rather rich in spirit, and from growing up in the Great Depression, she learned how to save and manage money and believed that waste in any form was a terrible offense.
"Grandmama" was always so proud that I, along with my grandfather and other family members were military veterans, so I've compiled a list of Military and Veteran Charities that both help those in need and use our hard-earned donations to the fullest extent possible. Fortunately, organizations such as Charity Watch and others have done the hard work of discerning which charities give the highest percentage of donations to those actually in need. Please don't misinterpret this information and think that other charities not included on this list are bad or not worthy of donations. Every charity/organization/business incurs operating, advertising, and payroll costs, but those listed here have received an "A Rating" based on factors such as Program Percentage (i.e. percentage of donations that go to the actual charity vs. overhead expenses) and Cost to Raise $100 (i.e. how much the charity spends in order to raise money). For more in-depth reading of these metrics please visit: https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-criteria-methodology
Fisher House Foundation, Grade: A+
As one of the top-rated military charities, the Fisher House Foundation provides a network of homes where veterans and military families can stay at no cost while their loved ones receive treatment due to disease, illness, or injury. The Fisher House also operates the Hero Miles program, which uses donated frequent flyer miles to bring loved ones to the bedside of injured service members, and the Hotels for Heroes program that uses donated hotel points to allow military family members to stay at hotels near medical centers at no cost. Additionally, the Fisher House manages a grant program which supports other military/veteran charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses, and the families of fallen and disabled veterans.
Semper Fi Fund, Grade: A+
Another top-rated military/veteran charity is the Semper Fi Fund. This greatly needed charity provides immediate financial support for critically ill, wounded, or injured post-9/11 military members of all branches of the United States Armed Forces, as well as their families. The Semper Fi Fund's mission provides these brave heroes and their families the resources they need during recovery, as well as in the sometimes difficult transition back into their communities and daily lives.
Homes for Our Troops, Grade: A
The Homes for Our Troops organization builds specially adapted, mortgage-free homes throughout the nation for severely injured Post-9/11 veterans, which allows these heroes to rebuild their lives by restoring freedom and independence. Most veterans helped by this organization have endured life altering injuries including multiple limb amputations, traumatic brain injury, and/or partial or full paralysis. After a veteran's home is built in the location that they choose, the Homes for Our Troops organization maintains a continued relationship with the veteran to assist in rebuilding their lives.
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Grade: A
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund helps military personnel suffering from the effects of psychological health conditions and traumatic brain injuries through a series of facilities called "Intrepid Spirit" centers. At these centers, wounded military personnel are diagnosed, treated, and receive the best possible care for their injuries sustained in the service of our nation.
Operation Homefront, Grade: A
The Operation Homenfront charity offers aid to military families during tough financial times through food assistance, home and auto repair, moving assistance, transportation and travel, rent-free transitional housing, and many other beneficial and needed services for wounded veterans and their families.
Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and that many other military and veteran charities not included here have also received an "A" or other high rating. Before giving, it's always important to ask questions and perform basic research through trusted sources such as Charity Watch or the Better Business Bureau. Also, check these organizations often, as ratings are subject to change from year to year when new financial reports and other operational information becomes available.
We may not all have the means or resources to give on a regular basis, but keep in mind that every dollar counts, no donation is too small, and that any form of help will always be greatly appreciated. Giving back not only helps those in need, but it nourishes our soul, promotes good, and honors those who have helped us along the way. In the memory of my grandmother and all those who have spent their lives devoted to helping those in need, I hope this article will provide inspiration in a form that turns thought into action. If you know a veteran, military member, or anyone in need, don't be afraid to offer support or kind words of encouragement. Regardless of the size of our bank account, we all have the power to change lives, help those who are struggling, and promote good in the world.
Charity Watch (https://www.charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities)
Clark Howard (http://www.clark.com/a-guide-to-the-best-and-worst-military-charities)
Fisher House Foundation (www.fisherhouse.org)
Semper Fi Fund (www.semperfifund.org)
Homes for Our Troops (www.hfotusa.org)
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (www.fallenheroesfund.org)
Operation Homefront (www.operationhomefront.net)