CHICAGO—More than 250 non-profit, public and private leaders gathered today at the Union League Club of Chicago to launch Illinois Joining Forces (IJF), a new statewide public-private partnership that will improve support for service members, veterans and their families.
“The so-called ‘sea of goodwill’ toward veterans and their families is wonderfully encouraging for those of us who have served,” said Erica Borggren, Director of Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and former captain in the U.S. Army. “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 increase the collaboration and communication among non-profits and public agencies at the local, state and federal level. Through IJF, participating organizations will work together to address gaps in services, to actively refer veterans and service members in need of assistance, and to offer better navigation of available resources and service to the public.
The new collaborative online platform www.IllinoisJoiningForces.org, will help IJF members to share information collaborate on project 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.
“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.”
Pilot programs are already underway in the areas of Employment and Job Training, Behavioral Heath, Families and Children, and Education. These programs have resulted in new approaches to educating mental health practitioners, teachers and employers about military culture and ways that they can more effectively work with service members, veterans and their families. These efforts will be expanded into other critical areas of need, such as Homelessness and Housing, Disability Benefits, Financial Literacy, Legal Support, Emergency Assistance and Access to Medical Care.
The Illinois Joining Forces Launch Summit provided an opportunity for IJF Members to work directly with fellow leaders across the state in establishing concrete goals and action plans for the year ahead.
The Summit featured Governor Quinn, Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti and Director Borggren, along with Felicia Davis, First Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, City of Chicago; Capt. Todd Veazie, Executive Director, Joining Forces, Office of the First Lady of the United States; and Col. Anthony Henderson, Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of Warrior & Family Support, U.S. Department of Defense.