Semper Fi Fund marks 7th anniversary and $50 million in assistance to service members

By Linda McIntosh | Sign On San Diego | | July 5, 2011

Camp Pendleton– The Semper Fi Fund recently surpassed the $50 million mark in financial assistance to injured service members. The nonprofit, founded in 2004, provided 31,000 grants to 6,000 military members and their families to help with expenses for hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation from post 9-11 combat injuries. The fund also helps cover the cost of modifying a home or car to make it wheel-chair accessible and buy adaptive equipment and has pitched in for families who lost jobs in order to be at the bedside of a wounded loved one.

The idea for the fund started with a meeting of several Marine wives around the kitchen table of Karen Guenther in her home on base. Their husbands were deployed in Iraq, and Guenther saw the wounded coming into Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, where she was a nurse.

The women were set on helping injured Marines returning from Iraq and started by giving troops at the base’s Naval Hospital welcome-home bags, filled with things they bought, such as phone cards, sweatshirts and toothbrushes.

A year later, the women each put in $100 to start a fund to help families from across the country pay for expenses to visit their wounded Marines. The Fund’s first official donation came from the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside.

Since then the fund has received donations from community groups, individuals, foundations and businesses to help Marines and members of other military branches who were wounded while supporting Marine units. An average of 45 requests are processed each day. Overhead has remained at about 5 percent, with a mostly part-time staff of 40 augmented by 120 volunteers worldwide, consisting primarily of military spouses.

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