Military caregivers tend to have a lot on their plates when it comes to caring for their loved ones who are wounded, ill or experiencing a disability such as a traumatic brain injury.
This especially rings true this year, as so many families across the country have been negatively affected by the pandemic and the economic stress caused by it.
In an effort to bring some holiday cheer to military and veteran caregiver families with a financial need, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation have teamed up to launch the Hope for the Holidays – Military & Veteran Caregiver Fund.
Military caregivers are often younger than civilian caregivers, and in many cases, are caring for minor children while simultaneously caring for a partner or parent. Nearly 40 percent of America’s 5.5 million military caregivers are in the 18 to 30 age range, according to a study from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Rand Corp. Military care recipients are also younger than their civilian counterparts, and 64 percent of veterans being cared for have a mental health or substance use diagnosis.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation has actively surveyed military caregivers throughout the pandemic to help address their needs, said Foundation CEO Steven Schwab. The responses to those surveys — which overwhelmingly asked for emergency financial assistance — led to the organization launching its respite response program earlier this year, and now the new holiday relief effort.
“In the world of the pandemic, everything has changed for a lot of people, but certainly some of the biggest constraints and pressures are being felt by military veteran families, especially those caring for vulnerable, sick, and injured vets at home,” Schwab said. “It’s causing a lot of financial strain for families in terms of how much they’re having to buy supplies and medications.”
The nonprofit received more than 1,000 responses in the first four days after the application period opened. Not all of those who applied are eligible and selections have not yet been made.
“This is meant for those folks who are having the most extreme financial challenges right now, really related to job loss, income loss and hard financial circumstances caring for their warrior,” Schwab said. “We really want to reach those folks who aren’t going to be able to put presents under the tree or have a Thanksgiving, Christmas or holiday meal without struggling.”
The two nonprofit organizations will distribute $200,000 to 400 to 500 eligible families, each receiving a minimum of $500, donated by the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation.
Getting involved with the project was a way for the organization to honor the legacy of Bob Hope, who was an entertainer, humanitarian and supporter of military personnel and their families. He famously volunteered to entertain military troops during USO shows from World War II through to the Persian Gulf War.
“Through his annual Christmas specials for the troops, my Dad made it his mission to connect servicemen and women with their families across the nation, by sharing holiday cheer from home,” Linda Hope said in a statement. “I’m proud to continue the Bob Hope legacy of spreading joy during the holiday season, especially to our nation’s military and veteran families in need.”
Linda is the daughter of Bob and Dolores Hope and serves as the chair and CEO for the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation.
In granting funds to families in need, Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation president and chief operating officer Tony Montalto said he hopes it will help to ease the financial burden of the pandemic.
“We aim to impact the lives of those in need, including those who have served our country and communities, and enable them to advance in society,” Montalto said. “These families are experiencing job loss, medical bills, loss of income and other intense financial things. Together, we are trying to find a way to relieve this stress, because the stress is overwhelming to them.”
Applicants for the Hope for the Holidays grant will also be invited to join a peer support network, the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community, and will be offered access to the organization’s financial planning and respite relief program.
The deadline to apply for the grants is Dec. 11, and the eligible recipients will receive funding the week of Dec. 21. To apply or find out more information, visit hiddenheroes.org/hope-for-holidays-giveaway/.