Donations to the Combined Federal Campaign make a big difference to charities both large and small, and to their beneficiaries — both two- and four-legged.

CFC has been a lifeline to create a stable foundation of support "so that we can, with confidence, honor the commitment we've made to veterans adopting pets through our program," said Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Pets for Patriots. The organization, which launched in 2010, helps troops and other veterans adopt companion pets from animal shelters — giving the most overlooked and undervalued dogs and cats a home, Zimmerman said.  

It's the fourth year Pets for Patriots has been part of the CFC, she said, and the group has seen donations grow exponentially. Pledges in 2015 topped $162,000, more than double the nearly $70,000 raised in 2014. This year, Zimmerman said, the goal is to reach $200,000 in pledges via the CFC, which is the official workplace giving campaign of the federal government. It runs from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15, but each area campaign designates the time frame within those months to conduct its local campaign.

Pets for Patriots' mission is to make pet ownership affordable for veterans, and the donations help veterans in a variety of ways. The organization is building a network of shelter, rescue and veterinary partners to help link last-chance animals with troops and other veterans. Generally the veteran is responsible for the adoption fee to ensure the veteran has some investment in the process, but many shelters offer discounts or waivers. 

Once the veteran or service member adopts the pet, Pets for Patriots sends them a gift card, generally for about $150, Zimmerman said. They can also receive ongoing veterinary care from veterinarians in the network who agree to give a discount of at least 10 percent. The organization has worked with other retailers to offer discounts to those adopting pets through their program.

There are many elderly and low-income veterans in their program, which has been involved in more than 1,209 adoptions since 2010, when there were five. Those who have adopted pets who experience temporary financial hardship can apply for financial assistance to pay for pet food and other expenses; the program also can assist their veterans whose companion pets are in need of medical care that they can't afford.

"The need is so great on both sides," Zimmerman said. "We're growing as fast as we can and as responsibly as we can."

In 2015, they started the pilot program to provide veterinary care subsidies to those in their adoption program who need it, and provided $4,400. In 2016 to date, they've spent $11,300 for veterinary care.

"As we grow more robust, we're getting more requests. There are also a lot more therapies available for pets. The good news is it helps more pets; the down side is, it's more expensive," she said.

In 2015, they helped 447 individuals through adoption, their hardship programs and other programs. They spent $72,640 on those programs, plus the $4,400 for veterinary care subsidies.

SUPPORT GROUP GROWS

Pets for Patriots joined the Military Support Groups of America federation within CFC in 2014, and being part of that federation has helped people with an interest in their mission find the charity.

"The CFC allows us to reach people who are inspired by our work, and who may not otherwise know about us," Zimmerman said.

One group new to the MSGA this year, the Purple Heart Service Foundation, is not new to the nonprofit world, chartered in 1957 as the fundraising arm of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Foundation CEO Steve Ruckman said the move "should help spread the word about the Purple Heart Medal, who we are and how we help our nation's veterans and their families."

The foundation provides support to a number of programs for veterans who have received the Purple Heart, helping fund free assistance to veterans and their families in their claims for service-related disability benefits; and helping veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

The foundation is currently trying to raise funds to promote research into the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for veterans suffering from PTS and TBI, Ruckman said.