This nonprofit serves the men and women who serve their country
Soldiers' Angels was founded by a military parent who wanted all soldiers and service members to feel support that they truly deserve
Meet the finalists for The Renewal Awards, a project of The Atlantic and Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $150,000 in grant money. Ten winners will be announced March 27 at The Renewal Summit in New Orleans, on TheAtlantic.com, and here, on The Renewal Project.
Soldiers’ Angels was created to serve the men and women who serve America. Founded by Patti Patton-Bader while her son, Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn, was serving in Iraq, Soldiers’ Angels provides comfort and support to service members, veterans, wounded heroes, and military families.
President and CEO Amy Palmer comes from a military family and served in the Air Force herself. We asked her to tell us about her service work and how Soldiers’ Angels gives back to America’s military families. The following is an edited and condensed version of that conversation. Learn more about Soldiers’ Angels on Facebook and follow @soldiersangels on Twitter.
Tell us about Soldiers’ Angels:
Soldiers’ Angels works on many community projects within our four major programs: Deployed Support, Family Support, Veteran Support, and Wounded Support.
This year we are celebrating our 15th Anniversary. In our 15 years, we have sent over 850,000 care packages to our brave men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much for our freedom each and every day. These care packages are a “touch of home” and offer a boost in morale to our troops all across the world.
Another of our community projects focuses on hunger relief for our veterans. Soldiers’ Angels started the Mobile Food Distributions to help veterans of all eras feed their families each month. Currently in five major cities throughout the United States, Soldiers’ Angels provides food for over 200 low-income and homeless veterans in each location every month. We started this program out of necessity—to help veterans with limited income ease their hunger needs and assist with maintaining a stable lifestyle. No veteran, who has fought for our freedom, should go hungry or worry about feeding their children. Soldiers’ Angels will continue with the Mobile Food Distributions and expand to other cities as funds become available.
Tell us about your community?
The community served by Soldiers’ Angels includes of the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, veterans of all eras, wounded heroes, and their families. Our community is broad—they come from all walks of life, all ages, all nationalities, all religions, and all creeds—but they have one thing in common, they love America and what we stand for. They will leave their families to protect our nation, they will work every day of the week with little sleep in less than ideal conditions, they will go without seeing their family for months at a time, they will miss the birth of their child, and many times, they will give the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our freedom. Why? Because they believe in protecting their family, protecting you and your family, and, of course, this great country. They believe in the freedoms that we have and that these freedoms are worth fighting for. We honor and respect them every day—the ones who are fighting now, the ones that have fought in the past, and their families who have kept the homefront going. They are the true heroes—America’s heroes.
How did you start your community work?
I started my community work at a very young age helping out families in my rural town. I realized in high school that I wanted to do more, not only for my community, but also for our country. Many of my siblings were in the military so I chose to follow in their footsteps. Serving my country was my priority—keeping our nation safe and for me, learning new skills. After my injury in the military, I wanted to continue to serve so I started in the nonprofit world to help military families with basic needs such as food, shelter, electricity and support to their children. I realized the sacrifices and struggles that many military families faced every day—deployments, financial stress, moving away from extended families, and having to maintain a stable household. I have been honored to serve them throughout my career and now at Soldiers’ Angels to also serve veterans of all eras.
Soldiers’ Angels is one of the few post-9/11 charities that serves veterans of all eras. Serving these veterans has been a true calling for me—to learn from them, to give them thanks which many of them never received, and to support them for their service and sacrifice.
What inspired you to do this work?
As a former member of the military who was injured and had to leave the military, I realized the difficulties and financial hardships faced by many military and veteran families. My family faced many of these hardships so my commitment to helping them is what inspired me to start a nonprofit and now to work at Soldiers’ Angels. The programs that we offer at Soldiers’ Angels meet the needs of so many and the volunteers who work side-by-side with us are outstanding. They give their heart, their finances, and their time to ensure that our community is taken care of, has the support of the American public, and knows that they will never go unloved.
What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?
At Soldiers’ Angels, we strive each and every day to support our deployed service members, veterans, and their families in as many ways as possible. Why? Because they are sacrificing or have sacrificed so much for our freedom. By supporting them with programs and services that help them through their deployments, or providing them with basic needs such as food and hygiene, or celebrating the birth of their newborn, or holding their hand while they are hospitalized when their family is not present, we are helping them to realize the importance of their service to our country, and showing them that America cares for their well-being.
What do you love about your community?
The one thing that we love about our community of military and veteran families is that they are so appreciative of all that they receive. Be it a care package from home for our deployed service members, a card of encouragement to the family who has lost a family member in war, a warm blanket for a veteran who is hospitalized, a hygiene kit to a homeless veteran, or a simple “thank you” to a veteran who served, they are grateful beyond measure. It is an honor to serve them and give them the respect and dignity they deserve.
What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?
There is one word that simply cannot be used enough to describe our community: selfless. These are men and women, just like you and I, who had the courage and wherewithal to stand up to the challenges presented by military life. They do not fear the threat of losing their life to protect yours and they do not fear the idea of going into battle to protect our country and our freedoms.
What leaders inspire you?
There is one person that has been the force behind Soldiers’ Angels and that is Patti Patton-Bader, our founder. Patti founded Soldiers’ Angels when her oldest son, Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn, was deployed in Iraq. Her son made comments that he was one of the few soldiers receiving care packages so Patti gathered some friends and neighbors and they began sending packages to his whole platoon. More and more requests for help came, from soldiers, from combat hospitals, from the families of America’s warriors. Patti and her band of friends came to the realization that more had to be done and could be done. They knew that there were many Americans who wanted to support the troops, but just didn’t know how. Using technology, Patti was able to build a system to match the needs of soldiers with people back home who wanted to send care packages. And they were able to group people back home with skills and a desire to help our troops—skills like quilt making, baking, or letter writing. Within just a few months, Soldiers’ Angels went from a dedicated mother sending a few extra care packages and letters, to an Internet community with thousands of Angels worldwide. Patti’s legacy continues on today through Soldiers’ Angels, one of the largest volunteer-centered organizations dedicated to supporting our troops, veterans, and their families. Patti is truly an inspiration not only to me, but tens of thousands of American citizens who believe in the dignity and honor of our military and veterans.