CHICAGO - November 9, 2012. Just days before Veterans Day, Governor Pat Quinn was joined today by Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren, Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Celletti, acting Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, and more than 250 veterans service leaders to launch Illinois Joining Forces (IJF), a new statewide public-private partnership that will improve support for servicemembers, Veterans, and their families.
IJF is modeled after the national Joining Forces initiative spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and seeks to increase collaboration and communication among non-profits and public agencies serving Veterans at the local, state and federal levels. Through IJF, participating organizations will work together to address gaps in services in job training and placement, healthcare, education and housing, actively refer veterans and service members in need of assistance, and offer better navigation of available resources and service to the public.
Today's partnership is the latest effort by Governor Quinn to support our troops and military families.
“This ground-breaking program is key to recognizing and supporting our state’s active-duty military, veterans, and their loved ones as they have supported our country,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois Joining Forces will have a positive impact on our military heroes and is an innovative way to connect them with the resources they need.”
The new collaborative online platform, www.IllinoisJoiningForces.org, will help IJF members share information, collaborate on projects and facilitate referrals. With the active participation of IJF members, www.IllinoisJoiningForces.org will also provide a user-friendly way for service members, veterans, and their families to find programs, resources and events across the state. The website will become fully developed and searchable on November 19th.
“The so-called ‘sea of goodwill’ toward veterans and their families is wonderfully encouraging for those of us who have served,” said Erica Borggren, IDVA Director and U.S. Army Captain. “However, the sea has also been nearly unnavigable, with hundreds of organizations and no system of support to connect and make sense of them. IJF represents a first-of-its-kind statewide effort to make the sea of goodwill navigable. The tools IJF will offer directly to veterans and to the community of support are powerful and exciting.”
“Illinois Joining Forces will not only help our military members, veterans and their families, but it will strengthen us as a state and as a nation,” said Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Celletti, the acting Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “By assisting our military members, veterans and their families in facing their unique challenges, we make them stronger. By making them stronger, they are better able to serve America whether on the battlefield, during a domestic emergency, in boardrooms, or on factory floors.”
Governor Quinn also announced the 2012 Operation Support Our Troops-America (OSOT) Care Package Drive in the days leading up to Veterans Day and the holiday season. OSOT Is partnering with all Chicagoland Midas locations, which will serve as official drop zones for items needed for the Care and Comfort Package Program.
OSOT sends packages to deployed service persons serving in harm’s way as well as support the morale and wellbeing of American forces by providing comfort, resources and education to them and their families both while they are deployed and after their return.
The military servicemen and women will each receive at least one 25 pound box filled with comfort items that cannot be found on a military post or are simply not the same as what they would get back home. It will also include some letters and drawings from the community members that helped supply the items in the box.
“Over 70,000 military members continue to serve in dangerous places around the world and are being asked to do more with less. Every citizen has an opportunity to show they have not forgotten them by dropping into their local Midas Dealer with a wish list item,” said Deborah Rickert, President of OSOT – America.
All Chicago-area Midas locations will serve as drop-off locations throughout the month of November for comfort items to be sent to troops. These items include: Peanut butter (28 oz. or less, plastic jars only); jelly (32 oz. or less, plastic jars only); individual cold drink mix packets (Gatorade, Propel, etc.); canned soup/pasta; individually wrapped snacks; shaving cream (non-aerosol preferred); body wash for men (18 oz. or less); hand warmers; lip balm (Chapstick, etc.); and, over-the-counter cold medication (no liquids).
Operation Support our Troops – America is a 501(c)3 volunteer-based organization that supports the morale and well-being of American forces by providing comfort, resources and education to them and their families while they are deployed and after their return. Since its inception, the organization has shipped approximately 900,000 pounds of goods to troops around the world. Operation Support our Troops – America also provides financial support to military and veteran support organizations such as Fisher House and Hines VA Hospital.
Governor Quinn has long made commitment to veterans, servicemembers and their families one of his top priorities throughout his career in public service. He has led programs including the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program and the Veterans Cash lottery ticket, which has awarded more than $10 million to non-profit organizations across the state that provide health care and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, housing assistance, disability benefits and other services to Illinois Veterans.
As Lieutenant Governor, Governor Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who were called to active duty as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These grants help service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses they struggle to afford because a wage-earner has temporarily left civilian employment to be placed on active military duty.
For more information about Operation Support our Troops – America and other programs for Illinois veterans and service members, visit www.OSOTAmerica.org and www.OperationHomefront.org.