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Gifts help USC make LA the most veteran-friendly place in the country

Funds from two local foundations boost a Los Angeles network that bridges gaps in services for service members

The Gamez family
Master Sgt. Rodolfo Gamez and his wife, Tech. Sgt. Christina Gamez, hold their children Tomas and Eva for a portrait outside their home. (Photo/U.S. Department of Defense)

The Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) at the USC School of Social Work has received two gifts totaling $125,000 to support local efforts aimed at making Los Angeles the most veteran-friendly place in the country.

The gifts from The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation will provide necessary support to the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative, a network of more than 400 organizations and stakeholders that meets monthly to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing local military populations.

Convened by the center, the collaborative develops systems and programs to bridge gaps in services across a number of areas, such as health and behavioral health, homelessness, employment, families, higher education, legal and faith-based issues.

Employment opportunities

Over the years, this collective-impact approach has helped to streamline resources. For the past year, the collaborative has used concrete data from the center’s Los Angeles County Veterans Study, the first comprehensive study of a local veteran population, to further drive efforts.

Nathan Graeser, CIR’s community program administrator who oversees the collaborative, said these philanthropic gifts are crucial to achieving the large-scale success that is envisioned by the collaborative.

“Ultimately, our goal is to make Los Angeles the most veteran-friendly city and county in the country,” he said. “It means providing veterans employment opportunities with livable wages, housing, education benefits and training, and community supports — everything that supports their well-being and allows them to reintegrate and connect with the civilian population.

“Partners like these are an important part of the process. It’s philanthropic support that allows us to innovate and find new solutions for helping veterans as they transition from the military,” Graeser added.

Wendy Garen, president and CEO of the Parsons Foundation, said there’s great value in a strong structure that draws the collective expertise of its partners.

“We are in an era of scarce resources and high needs, and there is a tendency for organizations to work in isolation,” Garen said. “Through the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative, none of these entities is working alone. The collaborative is the facilitating agency that drives people together toward better quality and cohesive services for veterans and their families.”

The gifts from both the Parsons and Newman’s Own foundations will help support the collaborative’s infrastructure, provide funds to pilot initiatives and support a conference that will share its best practices with other communities throughout the state.

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