The Newport Beach-based Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) has released evaluation research findings that assessed the impact of the Orange County Veterans Initiative (OCVI) over the last five years.
To-date, the initiative has invested more than $4 million into 17 nonprofits across Orange County to advance work in four areas: transition, education, employment, and physical/behavioral health. In total, the initiative has now reached 29,286 veterans and their families.
Conducted by Harder+Company Community Research, the evaluation utilized a mixed-methods approach and included a review of existing data, funder interviews, an OCVI cohort member survey, focus groups with veterans and military-connected family members, and a reflection session with OCVI cohort members.
Over the last five years, the collaboration between cohort members and veteran service organizations involved in OCVI has created a powerful network of support and raised awareness of available resources. In fact, 97 prcent of cohort members feel their organization is part of a more robust system to connect veterans and their families to the services and opportunities they need to succeed.
OCVI has impacted each of the four focus areas and has been successful in developing a coordinated system of care to support veterans and their families. The initiative has also increased the number of resources available to veterans and military-connected families, supported veterans in achieving their post-secondary educational goals, established a collaborative and relational approach to supporting veterans and their families, and strengthened the trust and collaboration between VSOs in Orange County. Evaluation findings also revealed county-wide statistics for each focus area including, but not limited to:
- Transition: OCVI has provided assessment and referral services to 8,743 veterans and military-connected family members – with 8,670 being served through peer mentorship and 5,521 receiving case management support.
- Education: As a result of OCVI, 95 percent of cohort member survey respondents feel more veterans have the support they need to pursue their post-secondary educational goals – as shown by 93 percent mentioning the positive impact of connecting student veterans to emergency funding for housing, food, gas cards, or bus passes and 75 percent reporting an increase in the number of, and funds toward, scholarships for student veterans.
- Employment: Since 2015, OCVI cohort members have provided employment support to over 1,400 veterans and military-connected families, of which nearly 600 (43 percent) were employed in full-time positions. The number of veterans placed in career-potential positions with higher salaries also increased through the support of the initiative.
- Physical/Behavioral Health: 88 percent of OCVI cohort members have been able to connect with more veterans in Orange County to evaluate their behavioral health and better educate them on the topic of stigma surrounding such services. In turn, 86 percent say they have also improved their health outreach and support services to be more sensitive to the needs of various gender, racial, and ethnic identities. Regarding physical health, 84 percent of veterans have been connected to the appropriate services – and 83 percent of cohort members feel more veterans know where to go to address their physical health needs because of the initiative.
“The Orange County Community Foundation is proud to support the system of care for veterans transitioning to civilian life in Orange County,” said Carol Ferguson, director of donor relations and programs at Orange County Community Foundation. “With the fourth-largest population of veterans in California, it is critical to ensure that veteran service organizations in Orange County can collaborate, tailor support and services, and ensure the sustainability of these efforts into the future.”
The nonprofits helping to advance a strong support system for Orange County veterans includes: 2-1-1 Orange County; California State University, Fullerton; Strong Children, Strong Families (Child Guidance Center); Easterseals Southern California; Goodwill Industries of Orange County; Irvine Valley College; Lestonnac Free Clinic; Saddleback College; Semper Fi Fund; Strength in Support; University of California, Irvine; Vanguard University; Veterans Legal Institute; Volunteer of America, Los Angeles – Battle Buddy Bridge (B3); Warrior-Scholar Project; Working Wardrobes for a New Start; and zero8hundred.
For more information, visit the Orange County Community Foundation website at www.oc-cf.org.
Founded in 1989, the Orange County Community Foundation works with donors, strengthens the local nonprofit sector and works to find solutions to community needs. Since its inception, OCCF has awarded more than $732 million in grants and scholarships, placing the organization in the top two percent in grantmaking among U.S. community foundations.