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News Release - December 6, 2016

News Release – Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Program - Serving Those Who Served

Successful program assisted Veterans in Illinois

All throughout the month of November, now established as “Veterans Month”, hundreds of volunteers participated across the state of Illinois in the Serving Those Who Served (STWS) Program. Their goal was to make an impact in the lives of veterans throughout Illinois through a community service program designed by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “We wanted to offer more to our Illinois Heroes than one more Veterans Day program or parade. We knew we could count on our fellow Illinoisans to volunteer to assist our veterans,” said IDVA Director Erica Jeffries.

The STWS program was conceived in May of this year, bringing in seven other partners to increase the success of the program. Serve Illinois, Chicago Cares, Boeing, Corporation for National & Community Service, Illinois Joining Forces, Student Veterans of America and Campus Compact. Each of these partners assisted the program with either volunteers, funding or community service projects.

The STWS program allowed organizations to register a project for volunteers to assist during the month of November. A website created through Serve Illinois allowed Illinoisans to look for a project in their area and sign up to volunteer for that project. At the end of the month, there were 41projects drawing in 570 volunteers. Collectively, the projects provided service, support, and assistance to over 3730 Illinois Veterans. “We had volunteers at our Veteran Homes, assisting with their libraries and painting various walls. We also assisted moving new furniture into 5 permanent homes for Veterans who were living on the streets,” added Jeffries.

Other projects included hosted bingo games at VA hospitals; Veteran Appreciation luncheon; Honor flight reception; Volunteering at a day long Veteran job fair; painting walls at various Veteran Homes, distribution of coats to homeless veterans; interviewed and recorded veteran stories and submitted to the Library of Congress; assisted with restoration of Civil War statue; assembled 80 care packages for Fischer House; volunteered at a Veteran Stand Down; delivered over 2000 items to the Marion VA for homeless veterans and veterans in need; collecting items for veterans in need; organized donation drives for veterans in need; assisted in cleanup of lots and veteran’s park; clean-up and refresh dining room and clean and polish trophy room; teach patriotism to elementary students on Veteran’s Day and visit with veterans in our Illinois Veterans home.

This was the first year for this program and it is planned to become an annual event. IDVA estimated having 570 volunteers working this month which equaled about 2,280 hours of much needed and welcomed community service for our Illinois Heroes.

According to the Points of Light, Points of Light was founded in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service, the total number of volunteer hours has an economic impact of $53,716.80. Traditionally, volunteer time has been estimated using a single dollar value for all types of volunteering. The Value of Volunteer Time, which is updated annually, is made available by Independent Sector. The current Independent Sector rate is $23.56 per hour (2015).

Total recap information has not been release at this time of the release. We expect these numbers to climb higher as more information is received.

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The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a state agency is dedicated to empowering veterans, as well as their dependents and survivors, to thrive. We do this by helping veterans navigate the complex veteran support system and assisting them in obtaining benefits; by providing long term health care for eligible veterans at our four Veterans’ Homes; and by working with other government agencies and non-profits to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges.