Federal Times: For military charities, demands for assistance soar

October 2nd, 2011

By Karen Jowers | The Federal Times | Federaltimes.com | October 2, 2011

Some organizations that provide financial assistance to military families and wounded warriors are seeing an increase in requests for help.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund has seen a 40 percent increase in its caseload, said president and founder Karen Guenther.

"Because we only have a limited amount of money, we've had to reduce the amount per grant to keep up with the demand, and help as many service members as possible," Guenther said, adding that the group had to dip into its reserve fund last quarter.

Based on what Operation Homefront has seen so far this year, requests for assistance are up about 20 percent over last year, said CEO Jim Knotts. Many requests are coming from National Guard and Reserve families in which a spouse has lost a job, or their financial situation has otherwise changed.

The organization has seen a spike in requests specifically for food assistance. Such requests nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010, Knotts said.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and Operation Homefront are among 74 Military Family and Veterans Service Organizations of America charities in the Combined Federal Campaign charity drive.

The change from the federation's former name — the Military, Veterans and Patriotic Service Organizations of America — was made to better reflect the federation's growing membership, said Mike May, chief operating officer of Maguire/Maguire Inc., a firm specializing in helping CFC federation groups.

The military federation had a record year in donations in the 2010 CFC — $15.2 million, up 11.2 percent from 2009, May said. Overall donations to CFC were down slightly, by 0.4 percent, to about $281.5 million in 2011.

Last year, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund received $650,000 from CFC for its 2011 operations, representing about 5 percent of its total donations. Guenther said it's critical for the organization to build support through CFC to help meet the needs of newly injured sailors and Marines, as well as catastrophically injured troops who will need support for the rest of their lives.

Preliminary numbers show donations were up by about $1 million in the group's fiscal year that ended June 30, she said.

"Unfortunately, demand for our help has outpaced the increase in donations we received, and we're giving out more than we're taking in," she said.

Guenther said the greatest needs of injured service members are financial support when a family member loses wages because the family member must stay home to care for a service member, and supplementing Veterans Affairs Department grants for adaptive housing and transportation.

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