We are fresh off an inspiring call yesterday with First Lady Michelle Obama and over 1,800 faith and community leaders from across the country who gathered to discuss Joining Forces, an initiative started by the First Lady and Dr. Biden to support our nation's military families. The call focused on how congregations and community groups can participate, and several faith leaders shared their ongoing work to support military families and veterans.
The purpose of Joining Forces, the First Lady noted, is to lift up and share that good work, and to invite others to join, expand or initiate efforts to support military families. Leading up to Memorial Day weekend, the First Lady and Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Office, mentioned several specific ways that faith and community groups can get involved in Joining Forces. Mrs. Obama pointed out you don't necessarily have to be an expert in military family issues to make a difference, highlighting some of the ways community leaders can get involved: You can build on what you already do best, whether it’s family counseling programs that you already have. Maybe you have a youth ministry or a career mentoring program that’s already in existence. And you can work and ensure that you’re helping families in your congregations and in your communities. Here are some of the ideas that were discussed:
- Ensure that existing ministries and services are accessible to military families and veterans.
- Start a new ministry or service for military families or veterans, or partner with an existing program in your community.
- Coordinate a once-a-year fair, an event or some kind of service activity that’s focused on military families.
- Help raise awareness about the issues and challenges that military families and veterans face, as well as their service and strengths that some of their neighbors may not fully be aware of.
Speakers on the call shared eloquently about the practical ways that congregations and community groups can partner with existing efforts, replicate successful programs, or ensure that their own programs reach military families and veterans in their community. Candy Hill with Catholic Charities USA, discussed the work of her local parish to help military families who had an injured family member. Chaplain Colonel William Sean Lee with the Maryland National Guard talked about the Partners in Care initiative which coordinates support for Maryland National Guard members during times of crisis or need. We look forward to sharing more stories about the work faith and community leaders are doing around the country to support military families.
Alexia Kelley is the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
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