Illinois Joining Forces Hosts Inaugural Community Showcase

Contact: Tamara Edwards
Date: Friday, December 15th
Illinois Joining Forces hosts Inaugural Community Showcase
Statewide not-for-profit brings public-private network of military and veteran serving organizations together to improve services for Service Members, Veterans and their Families
CHICAGO – More than 60 Veteran-support stakeholders gathered at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago on December 6th for the Illinois Joining Forces’ (IJF) inaugural Community Showcase. The event was held in an effort to bring military and veteran serving organizations and corporate partners together to improve services for Illinois’ service members, veterans and their families.
The program opened with welcome remarks from IJF Co-Chairs Kevin Smith and Steve Goodwin, and was followed by a 2018 IJF Progress Report from IJF’s Executive Director, Jaime Martinez and highlighted 2018 successes with new Growth and Wellness programs and the creation of IJF Veteran Support Communities throughout the state. Later, Martinez led an interactive panel discussion with Stephen Curda, Acting Director of Illinois’ Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA), and Erica Borggren, the former Director of IDVA and current VP of Customer Solutions at ComEd. The panel discussion, titled, ‘The Role of State Agencies and Resources to the Military and Veteran Community’ encouraged attendees to participate in the conversation about improving access to public and private services for veterans, and identify opportunities for greater collaboration and partnership.
Throughout the afternoon, the Showcase offered networking opportunities and a simulated micro-workshop, intended to further develop and integrate attendees with the reality of the challenges Illinois’ Veterans’ Services Organizations face every day.
In attendance were representatives from The McCormick Foundation, GPD Charitable Trust, Walgreens, ComEd, The Boeing Company, Edelman, The Road Home Program (Rush), Corporate America Supports You (CASY),
USO – Illinois, National Able Network, Bunker Labs, The Code Platoon, Student Veterans of America – Illinois, Dry Hooch Peer to Peer Programs, Pritzker Military Museum and Library, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs.
Martinez celebrated the success of the event, stating “IJF’s inaugural community showcase brought together business, government, and community leaders from across the Prairie State to focus on a singular goal: how we can better serve Illinois’ 650,000 Veterans and their families. We know that no one organization can do it all, and IJF remains committed to assisting military members and veterans as they navigate the processes of finding the organizations that can best meet their needs. Supporting community network models and focusing on aging veterans, rural veteran access, and empowering women veterans this past year could not be possible without the generous support of numerous private and corporate partners and their continued commitment to the IJF vision and model. The overwhelming response from the business and veteran-support community has been incredible and we look forward to continuing to build bridges to better serve our nation’s heroes in the future”

Holistic Approaches to Healing



In recent years, holistic wellness methods have seen growing popularity in the veteran service arena. Holistic wellness approaches physical, mental, and spiritual well-being from a natural healing perspective, as opposed to prescription medication. This can include healing touch, tai chi, yoga, meditation, diet, and nature therapy.


IJF member organizations Chicago Botanic Gardens and Thresholds have partnered to implement nature healing programs for veterans. These horticultural therapy programs leverage the soothing power of gardening to treat PTSD and other mental health issues. The effects have proven transformative for individual participants, and scientists have found that exposure to the outdoors increases serotonin and generates powerful spiritual development through giving back to Mother Nature.


Additionally, Chicago is a hotspot for urban farming, an approach that attempts to facilitate these same benefits right in our city. Recent summers have seen a spike in the number of urban farms throughout the city, with many popping up in underserved communities whose residents don’t have easy access to fresh produce. Some, such as Windy City Harvest or Wood Street Urban Farm in Englewood, offer pathways to employment for those struggling to obtain a steady income, as many veterans who come through IJF may be. Many urban farms also provide or partner with other organizations to teach participants tools for using produce in a cost-efficient and nutritious way.


These holistic approaches may seem outside the box, but veteran services have already started to realize their power. While VA medical centers are often thought to be grounded in more traditional healing approaches, the Jesse Brown VA is one example of a VA facility that has embraced holistic wellness through their Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatment clinic. Among other things, participants can grow vegetables in an on-site garden and turn them into wholesome, nutritious meals.


Do you think holistic wellness is a good strategy for veterans? What sorts of holistic wellness programs would you like to see offered through the VA? Let us know in the comments below!



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By: Caitlin Hodes