COVID-19 Response & 2020 Grants
Veterans have earned the opportunity to write their next chapter, despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has had a significant effect on veterans and threatened the viability of the very organizations that exist to serve them. At the onset of the pandemic, the Bob Woodruff Foundation recognized the potential for an overwhelming increase in need that brought a record level of urgency to our work. In March 2020, with the unanimous support of our Board of Directors, we reinforced our mission by ensuring we did everything we could to support the veteran community during this unprecedented crisis.
Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The COVID-19 pandemic created three conditions: emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation, and unplanned job or wage loss that together created a perfect storm, threatening the mental health of many veterans.
- Veteran unemployment tripled at the beginning of the pandemic in the US, with about 1 million veterans facing unemployment in April (three times pre-pandemic levels).
- Even before the pandemic, most community-based veterans service organizations had less than one month of cash on hand.
Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans
In April, the Bob Woodruff Foundation published an original research paper, "Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans," identifying the potential acute and long-term impacts of the pandemic on the veteran community.
Using original data and insights from our Local Partner Self-Assessment Tool (LPSAT) combined with analysis of several additional data sets, we published our original research paper just one month after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in New York. Our goal was to ensure that public officials, service providers, policymakers, grant makers, and other influencers in the communities where veterans reside understood that, while all Americans faced COVID-19, many veterans were doing so while contending with other challenges related to their service, which in many cases exacerbate the effects of COVID-19.
“As we monitored the increasingly concerning news around COVID-19, our team did the research and determined that our veterans and their families were going to need extra help – and that help couldn’t wait." - Anne Marie Dougherty, CEO of the Bob Woodruff Foundation
Throughout the spring and summer, we invested more than $6 million through grants and stimulus funding to more than 130 grantees and local partners across the country working to meet the urgent needs of veterans. Our funding supported a wide range of programs including employment resources, legal and housing assistance, emergency financial support, tele-mental health services, virtual physical activity, social connection, and safe respite for caregivers. In November, we announced a subsequent grant cycle and local partner stipend application focused on combatting food insecurity as well as other emergency needs facing veterans in crisis.
Listening to Our Network
Over 18.2 million veterans live in our nation’s 3,141 counties. Access to services that meet veterans’ needs varies from community to community because systems are not integrated. Through our local partner network, we create the connections needed to meet veterans’ needs holistically in communities across the country. By working closely with more than 100 communities across the country, BWF also learns about the evolving needs of veterans in real time. We apply this learning in research papers and in our other program efforts.
Our paper projecting the impacts of COVID-19 on veterans marked the first time that we published research from our proprietary survey of local partners – the Local Partner Self-Assessment Tool (LPSAT), generously funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies.
Subsequently, we published several more papers exploring the insights we heard from our partners about their needs, successes, and best practices.
Community Collaboration for America’s Veterans: Insights from the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s Local Partner Self-Assessment Tool
Assessing and Improving Community Support for Veterans
Combatting Food Insecurity
Veterans face food insecurity at higher levels than civilians in normal economic times. Pre-COVID, veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were almost twice as likely to be food insecure compared to the general population. For families with young children, the stakes are even higher. One in seven military households with a child five years old or younger faced food insecurity.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation recognized that COVID-19 was exacerbating existing concerns around food security and creating a growing crisis for millions of Americans, including veterans and military families, who were in urgent need of support. We also saw that food insecurity is a complex issue that intersects with other needs, such as financial strain, un/underemployment, and housing stability. We endeavored to tackle the immediate and systemic issues related to food insecurity with a holistic full plate, full pantry, full coverage approach.
On Veterans Day, Craig Newmark Philanthropies announced a generous $3 million grant to the Bob Woodruff Foundation as part of a larger initiative to combat food insecurity. That same day, we launched a grant cycle and opened an application for our local partners to receive stimulus funding in support of food security initiatives, distributed in early 2021.
Our partnership with Craig Newmark Philanthropies also enabled us to provide joy and comfort to veterans in need during Thanksgiving. We joined forces with the NYC Department of Veterans Services to distribute 400 frozen turkeys to veteran families experiencing food insecurity in the New York City area, bringing a holiday meal to veterans and their families who needed a helping hand during a difficult time.
At the close of 2020, we announced a multi-part discussion series entitled "Leaders Eat Last" that would dive into the terminology, existing resources, major concerns, and solutions around food insecurity in military/veteran communities.
Join us in the fight against food insecurity for veterans and their families.
Supporting VIVA Families
The Bob Woodruff Foundation's Veterans In-Vitro InitiAtive (VIVA) complements fertility treatment services provided by the government to ensure military service does not preclude veterans from having families. In 2020, we celebrated the birth of the 11th VIVA baby.
In addition to providing grants to veterans, we also help veterans and their families who are eligible for VA funding to learn about and receive support through the VA.
The Ruiz Family
Fernando Ruiz served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years and was deployed several times during his military career. After a devastating accident, Fernando lost the use of his lower body. He and his wife Jessica felt their dream of starting a family was jeopardized, but through VIVA, the Bob Woodruff Foundation was able to give them hope. In 2020, the Ruiz's celebrated the birth of their first son, Roman.
"Through one of the darkest times in our love story, BWF was able to help us see the light and show us love when we most needed it… When he is old enough, he will know all about the wonderful people who helped make his life possible, the BWF family included." - Jessica Ruiz
Interested in supporting our VIVA program?
For the first time ever, New York’s most anticipated night of hope, healing and laughter went virtual and global! On November 18, the 14th Annual Stand Up for Heroes was offered around the world for free, providing an even greater opportunity to honor our nation’s impacted veterans and their families and raise awareness of our mission.
Presented by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival, the show streamed on ABC News Live, Facebook, HLN, TikTok, Twitch, and the Armed Forces Network and featured appearances from some of today's hottest stars.
“My experience in the military made me who I am today – and it also connected me with some of the strongest, funniest, and most memorable people I’ve ever met. As far as I see it, service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos. It’s what happens when people aren’t looking and it’s about how we take care of each other every single day.” - Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex
Interested in finding out more about Stand Up for Heroes or want to get involved?
Teaming up with the NFL
The NFL is embedded in American culture. As they strive to serve their fans, they are also committed to honoring those who serve our country. In 2019, the NFL and the Bob Woodruff Foundation established a three-year partnership designed to optimize the positive impact that the NFL and its 32 clubs have on the veteran community by leveraging our national network and due diligence process. When COVID-19 hit, the NFL launched a major relief effort, donating more than $35M towards the cause and generously supporting the Bob Woodruff Foundation along with 9 other premiere NFL partners. Their support throughout 2020 enabled us to invest in 29 best-in-class programs, helping our veterans, military families, and caregivers navigate new challenges, build healthy lifestyles, and grow strong communities.
2020 NFL-BWF Salute to Service Grantees:
- Arizona Coalition for Military Families
- Armed Services Arts Partnership
- Bastion Community of Resilience
- Bunker Labs
- Code of Support Foundation
- Connecticut Veterans Legal Center
- Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta
- Heart of Florida United Way
- Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
- Merging Vets and Players
- Montrose Center
- National Ability Center
- People Assisting the Homeless
- Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing
- Research Foundation of the City University of New York
- Services for the Underserved
- Start Corporation
- Swords to Plowshares
- Team Red White and Blue
- The Mission Continues
- Trustees of Boston University
- Tuesday’s Children
- U.S. VETS
- University of California, Los Angeles Foundation
- Veterans Yoga Project
- Volunteers of America of Florida
- Warrior-Scholar Project
- PenFed Foundation
In April, Move United (formerly Disabled Sports USA) launched the first ever USA Wheelchair Football League with funding from an NFL-BWF Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant.
Partnership with Veterans On Wall Street
In 2020, BWF was proud to continue our work as the strategic philanthropic partner of Veterans On Wall Street (VOWS), a consortium of more than 100 firms dedicated to honoring former and current military personnel by facilitating career and business opportunities in financial services and beyond.
Virtual Resilience Series
We partnered with VOWS to present the 2020 Virtual Resilience Series, full of content and discussions geared towards informing and inspiring the VOWS network and our wider audience. The series, featuring panel discussions and fireside chats, each brought together about 200 veterans, service members, and private sector leaders to discuss topics such as risk management and resilience and to hear the powerful perspectives of leaders like Medal of Honor recipient SGM Matthew Hall, US Army, and wounded warrior Dan Nevins, a US Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
Topics for Resilience Series:
- Risk Management in Times of Crisis
- Diversity and Inclusion Panel with Lt. Gen. Vince Stewart
- Pride Month
- Fireside Chat with Vice Commander of US Space Force
10th Annual Veterans On Wall Street (VOWS) Symposium
The 2020 VOWS Symposium convened leading thinkers and stakeholders to discuss the transition into the civilian workforce, with a focus on the resiliency and transferable skills of military veterans and their spouses. More than 1,600 people registered for the event.
Featured speakers included:
- General Joseph Dunford, USMC, 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Keynote)
- Michael Corbat, CEO, Citi
- Anne Marie Dougherty, CEO, Bob Woodruff Foundation
- Suni Harford, President, UBS Asset Management; Co-founder of VOWS
- Christopher Perkins, Managing Director, Citi; Co-founder of VOWS
- Gary Shedlin, Chief Financial Officer, BlackRock
- Jake Wood, CEO, Team Rubicon; Author, Once a Warrior
- Bob Woodruff, ABC News Correspondent; Co-founder of Bob Woodruff Foundation
"At Citi, our veteran colleagues are some of the most resilient and team-oriented among us." - Michael Corbat, CEO, Citi
WayUp Employment Portal Launch
During the symposium, we partnered with WayUp to launch a brand new recruiting platform for transitioning veterans. As the go-to job platform for over 5.7 million users, WayUp is known for helping early-career candidates launch their careers. Veterans can now create candidate profiles to match with jobs across the country and receive assistance throughout the recruitment process, including interview prep, veteran-specific webinar content, and soft-skills feedback. VOWS member companies can also use WayUp to search for candidates using a veteran sourcing tool, free of charge.
Partnership with the Qatar Harvey Fund
Three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of the roughly 400,000 veterans across Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast were still impacted by the storm’s devastating effects. In response to the disaster, the Qatar Harvey Fund (QHF) partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) to deploy a $6 million grant helping veterans rebuild, recover, and thrive after the hurricane. In 2020, those veterans faced new and urgent challenges of illness, unemployment, uncertainty, and isolation due to COVID-19. During the final two rounds of grants from this two-year partnership, the Bob Woodruff Foundation allocated $1.8M in funding to programs that support veterans recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Harvey and the pandemic.
“We are very proud of our partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation because they are providing critically-needed support to veterans in southeast Texas who have been hard hit by COVID-19, with many of these veterans still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.” – His Excellency Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to the U.S. and Chair of the Qatar Harvey Fund
2020 BWF-QHF Grant Recipients
- Clinician Stipends, in support of STRONG STAR Training Initiative
- Combined Arms
- Corporate America Supports You
- The Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse – Coastal Bend
- The Council on Recovery
- Easter Seals of Greater Houston, Inc.
- Family Houston
- Goodwill Industries of Houston
- Houston Food Bank
- Lone Star Legal Aid
- Tri-County Behavioral Healthcare
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
- Vets4Warriors/Rutgers University Foundation
Bob Woodruff, and his son Mack, spent Veterans Day weekend in Houston with BWF-Qatar Harvey Fund grantee The Mission Continues (TMC) and Combined Arms for Bayou City Blitz, a TMC-run program to help the community impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Partnership with Wells Fargo
In November 2020, the Bob Woodruff Foundation announced a partnership with the Wells Fargo Foundation to address veteran homelessness and housing instability exacerbated by COVID-19. For many veterans, their ability to maintain safe and stable housing is threatened by legal, mental health, employment, and financial issues, made worse due to the current crisis.
With the support of Wells Fargo, the Bob Woodruff Foundation is able to urgent financial needs and invest in long-term solutions to help vulnerable veterans keep a roof over their heads through grants. We are also partnering to address big-picture barriers to housing stability, including access to quality legal and medical services. Tackling the issues that can lead to veteran homelessness will help veterans avoid crisis.
"Lack of affordable housing puts millions at the edge of crisis. Wells Fargo is committed to the importance of home for everyone in our nation, especially veterans who have sacrificed so much, and we are proud to support Bob Woodruff Foundation’s efforts to address veteran homelessness and stable housing." – Eileen Fitzgerald, Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy, Wells Fargo Foundation
Identifying and Responding to Urgent Needs
In our research paper, “Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans,” we found that pre-existing financial concerns, combined with the loss of income due to COVID-19, leave low- to moderate-income veterans and military families at risk for financial instability and crisis. Our local partners witnessed this financial instability first hand, with more than 20% of local partners who received stimulus funding from BWF at the beginning of the pandemic using the funding in response to housing instability and homelessness.
In their own words, how our local partners used 2020 stimulus funding:
“We served veterans by paying for homeless veterans’ first month's rent/security deposits, and paying utility and energy bills for veterans in financial crisis. We also provided emergency shelter to homeless veterans in need (via motel stays).”
“We were very active with the homeless population of veterans in our 6 counties. We provided hygiene kits, food, resources for transportation and referrals to other services in the community regarding mental health, housing, benefit and claims assistance.”
“We supported homeless veterans with fresh vegetables all summer.”
Interested in helping us address housing insecurity and related issues for veterans and their families?
Partnership with Lexus
Kicking off 2020, car collectors from around the world gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 17 for the Barrett-Jackson auction and the chance to bid on vintage and custom vehicles. Lexus generously provided a one-of-a-kind 2021 LC 500 Convertible for the auction, which raised an impressive $2 million to support the Bob Woodruff Foundation as well as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The 2020 event marks the second year that Toyota and the Barrett-Jackson auction have generously supported our mission to help veterans and their families. In 2019, proceeds from the auction of the 2020 Toyota GR Supra benefited the Bob Woodruff Foundation as well as the American Heart Association.