While the Walmart-spearheaded Greenlight a Vet campaign rolls into its second year as Veterans Day approaches, one of the promotion's partners has received a $5 million donation from the retail giant's charitable arm.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families, based out of Syracuse University, received the grant from the Walmart Foundation to boost its AmericaServes program, which assists veterans making the transition to civilian life. The money going to the 4-year-old program, which was not given in connection with the light-bulb campaign, is part of a $20 million commitment from the foundation to assist veterans groups through 2019. That pledge was tacked on to an initial $20 million promise made in 2011.
The IVMF donation will target programs in North Carolina and Texas, the Walmart Foundation said in a news release. Military Times partnered with the group in its polls of service members during the recent election cycle.
IVMF joins Team Red, White and Blue, Team Rubicon and Blue Star Families as partners in the Greenlight a Vet promotion, which encourages supporters to change one light bulb in their home to green as a way to show support for the veteran community. Participants are asked to share their light via social media using the #GreenlightAVet hashtag, and to visit the program's website and enter their ZIP Code to light up an online map. Nearly 5 million virtual lights had been logged as of Wednesday morning.
The site also links to the partner organization's homepages. Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, said she estimated about 40,000 visitors to her organization's website came through the program last year.
Other support from the foundation has been more direct: It helped back the launch of Blue Star SpouseForce, which provides Salesforce administrator training for military spouses that normally would cost $5,000.
"One of the things we say is one of the best things you can give a transitioning veteran is a spouse with a job," Roth-Douquet said. "If we can bring career and workforce development programs into the military spouse space, we really create an awful lot of good for the community overall. [Walmart] heard that, and they've been very responsive to it."
The nonprofit's relationship with the foundation predates the Greenlight a Vet program, she said.
"Part of our mission is to connect America to the military," Roth-Douquet said, adding that the light-bulb program "really speaks directly to the heart of that mission. It gives people something they can do."
In addition to the foundation’s efforts, Walmart has hired more than 130,000 veterans as part of its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, which launched in 2013. It has pledged to hire 250,000 by 2020.
Need a light bulb? The GLAV page directs readers to Walmart’s online shopping portal, where two of the three options were sold out as of Wednesday morning.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.