Community Battle Book
You see a need. You have a sketch of an idea. Now what? Think of this stage like the beginning stages of
putting together a puzzle. You turn pieces over, group colors and edges, and frequently check out the picture
on the front of the box to make sure you’re on the right track.
Taking the time to get organized is essential to the success of your program, and ultimately, the success of the veterans, service members, and families you’re hoping to serve. Here are the steps we took in the beginning to discover our true mission and uncover the gaps in programming and services for veterans, active service members, and military families in our area.
Understanding Your Population
In order to help, you have to understand why the veterans, active service members, and families you’re hoping to serve feel the way they do. If you understand the specific challenges these populations face in your community, the root causes of their feelings and behaviors become clear. We began work in one town and slowly expanded to 10 towns within the local public health department catchment area; now have a presence and connections across the state. Once we understood the issues our population faced in our first town, it was easy to adapt and anticipate similar struggles and issues as our service area grew.
Identify Existing Resources
You don’t want to duplicate efforts of another organization, or worse - think you’ve
identified a problem that doesn’t truly exist. Here are examples of resources who have
become trusted agents over the course of our process.
Community Partners: When determining the resources available in your community, cast a
wide net. Think not only about veterans’ organizations, but colleges, churches, state and
local government agencies, clubs and civic organizations and small businesses. We’ve found
valuable pieces to our puzzle in unlikely places and know the same will the true for you.
Veteran Support Groups: These groups could be formal like the VFW or American Legion, or they could be casual coffee groups, a group of veterans who go hiking together, veteran business owners’ networks, or even motorcycle groups. Veterans find ways to connect to one another around shared interests – sometimes in traditional settings, but oftentimes,
especially with the younger generation of veterans, you may have to get creative and meet them where they are.
Military Families: This group is oftentimes an overlooked yet important piece to the puzzle.
In many cases, veterans’ family members are looking for community, resources, and
understanding– especially if those family members serving in a caregiver role. In our
experience, if you can connect with the family, the veteran will soon follow.
Build Your Team
Through the process of identifying your resources, you’ve probably met some pretty
fabulous people who want to help you with your cause. You’ll gather more key players as
your momentum builds, but this core team is going to be key to helping you through the
next few steps of completing this puzzle.
Evaluate Information From Your Conversation
Taking a step back to evaluate is something we recommend doing as much as possible. Burying your head in one corner of the puzzle may cause you to lose perspective of the whole picture. Remember: help is only help if it’s perceived that way, so take a look at what you’ve learned from your community of focus conversation and make your program adjustments accordingly
Train Community Using RGH’s Peer Mentor Training
The Resilience Grows Here Veterans Peer 2 Peer Mentoring Program trains veterans to become peer mentors. The curriculum trains veterans to serve as role models and provide support and friendship to other veterans by helping them problem solve and connect to veteran and community resources. Through shared experience, language, and military culture, the peer mentor:
Acts as an ally and friend to fellow veterans;
Supports fellow veterans to feel a sense of community;
Helps improve quality of veterans’ everyday lives;
Shares veteran resources
The program is designed
1) to reduce veteran isolation; 2) to destigmatize mental illness and
promote mental health and 3) to improve access to programs and
services that meet the needs of veterans, and their families.
Prospective peer mentors complete an application process and, if
accepted into the program, participate in a face-to-face or online
training. Mentees are generally self-referred or referred to the
program by a family member or friend. Participation in the program
is completely voluntary and identification of the peer mentors and
mentees is kept strictly confidential within RGH staff.
Add Some Mental Health Training for Additional Education
Mental Health First Aid
There are many programs out there that offer valuable information about how to act and react in a crisis and get people to the help they need. Here are two of our favorite programs:
Engage Your Population
No Wrong Doors Training for Colleges
The Warrior Within event for National Guard
Suggestions of community engagements like
Veterans Dinners, coffee houses
Advertising Posters examples
Get people excited and interested about what you do by offering a variety of education opportunities, chances for community and fellowship, networking, and FUN.
Here are some examples of what we’ve done and how YOU can do it too!
[ALL OF THESE WILL BE DOWNLOADABLE GUIDES]
Evaluate Each Engagement Initiative and the Program
Keep stepping back and looking. Create surveys and feedback mechanisms so you can continuously improve to meet the needs of the veterans, military members, and families you’re servicing. If don’t ask, you won’t know, and if you don’t know, how can you really help?