by Claudia Bustamante

The Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families 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, like health and behavioral health, homelessness, employment, families, higher education, legal and faith-based issues.

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.

“The USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families and the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative ¬¬¬help so many veterans through the transition from military to civilian life, and we are proud to support them,” said Robert Forrester, Newman’s Own Foundation president and CEO.

“Our men and women in uniform make great sacrifices in their own lives to protect the unique freedom, privileges and opportunities we enjoy as Americans. It is not so much a responsibility to support them, but more a privilege to express our gratitude for their service.”

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