It is important to focus on those in the Reserves and National Guard who are deployed, and those who come home. There is another important factor to focus on. Often, our soldiers are leaving behind a family with children in order to fulfill their duty to serve.
A great network of people realized the need to help kids and their families of soldiers in these branches who are badly injured, deployed, or killed in action. Under the program Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, founded in 2004, an initiative called Our Military Kids administers grants in the amount of $500 to deserving families.
“Our mission is to help kids of National Guard and Reserves during times of deployment, help kids with severely injured parents and those of the fallen,” says AnnaMaria Gallozzi of the organization. “For us, giving that grant to a child to play their favorite sport or musical instrument is crucial to the whole family’s wellbeing during a stressful time.”
Our Military Kids thrives off of a support group of five full time employees, one part time employee, and over 30 volunteers. AnnaMaria’s role is to reach as many families as she can. “I run all of our marketing and PR which includes social media and our website, along with any press releases and media attention we receive.”
AnnaMaria, who has worked in non-profits, in the field of PR, and graduated from East Carolina University, finds that her pride for the military drives her to participate in Our Military Kids. “Because of America’s military, I am able to live a life without questioning my freedom and can pursue my passions,” AnnaMaria said, who has had two grandfathers serve our country. “I am very grateful to our military.”
“Working with military families is always something I wanted to do,” she states. “Being a civilian, I could not think of a better way to give back than to help those in need while their service member risks everything for our safety.”
AnnaMaria witnesses the effects of a parent deployed first-hand. “Currently, my best friend’s husband is serving in the Army,” she shares. “They have a beautiful 5-year-old son who is a military child. I worry about them every day…The lifestyle is not always easy, but at the end of the day, it is very rewarding. I thank them for their service.”
Over 700 grants have been awarded through Our Military Kids just in 2015. Over $20 million through over 50k grants have been given out since the program was created. Through the many people they have helped, AnnaMaria’s favorite encounter recently was meeting two daughters of a father who succumbed to combat-related injuries. They were able to provide the girls with dance lessons and color guard funding.
“Our biggest challenge is getting the general population to understand why there is a need for our program,” AnnaMaria says of people sneering at the importance of extracurricular activities. “Think of where you would be if you did not get involved in something at a young age, or had the opportunity for tutoring.”
“Activities such as sports or fine arts allows kids to feel like they belong and have a different support system outside of the house,” AnnaMaria passionately says. “It now is a place where the child doesn’t have to think about the stress inducing events that are at home.”
AnnaMaria’s favorite part of her job, and the most unexpected, is getting to be in touch with the people who are being positively changed by Our Military Kids. “I get to hear families’ stories every day and even help with big events in a family’s life.”
Our Military Kids is branching out in directing resources to other causes. “Currently we have teamed up with Kids in Touch, to give families of deployed service members a safe place to text and send pictures during deployments.”
In terms of the VA Home Loan, AnnaMaria absolutely agrees that veterans and active duty should educate themselves, or seek out help in gathering information, on their benefits. “Having a safe and secure home base is exactly what families need,” she says. “Military kids thrive when they can call some place home.”
Want to apply for a VA Home Loan? Visit https://www.vahomeloancenters.org/va-hlc-home-loan-info/.
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