In the most significant sign yet that its model is among the country’s elite, the Augusta Warrior Project has been selected to take the program it developed locally and expand it into a national movement that will help hundreds of thousands of veterans transition into civilian life, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday.
The multimillion-dollar initiative – led by the national Wounded Warrior Project – comes after several major cities including Charlotte, Dallas, and Birmingham, Ala., modeled their programs after Augusta’s, which has helped 96 veterans find permanent housing, 169 veterans land jobs and 555 veterans enroll in school in the past year.
The national Wounded Warrior Project said the Augusta program was an obvious match for its Community Integration initiative, which is designed to bring services and support directly to veterans most in need.
Jim Lorraine, the executive director of the Augusta Warrior Project, said his staff is honored to carry out this initiative, which will begin in Augusta and expand to five U.S. regions in the next year.
“Augusta should be proud to have fostered such a national model,” Lorraine said. “Without this community’s support, AWP could not be successful. When asked, this community stepped up and met the challenge of supporting our warriors. Now, we get to carry this message to other communities.”
By strengthening the local nonprofits that serve the veteran population and empowering communities to build support networks, the Community Integration initiative will allow each local program to provide a wider cross-section of services, according to details of the agreement.
The Wounded Warrior Project will provide mentorship and funding, study trends and needs within communities and measure outcomes. The Augusta organization will help injured service members access the programs and services available in their region.
“The collaboration with Augusta Warrior Project allows us to extend our programs’ reach in underserved communities, build community support for warriors transitioning from military to civilian life, and empower other nonprofits to increase the services that are available to injured service members,” said Charlie Abell, the executive vice president for policy and government affairs at the Wounded Warrior Project. “By joining forces, this innovative collaboration allows us to build up the strength of communities where demand is outpacing supply and increase and enhance the support we provide to wounded service members.”
The August Warrior Project is a 2012 recipient of a $75,000 Wounded Warrior outreach grant designed to bridge gaps in care and services to service members in seven rural Georgia counties surrounding Augusta.
Lorraine said a small team of local coordinators comprised of Cheree Tham, Stephanie Suarez and Rosemary Forrest will work on the initiative with him.
No local donations will be used to fund the national effort, he said.
“AWP remains an independent, local nonprofit,” Lorraine said. “Our collaboration with WWP will
allow us to expand our services locally, while at the same time, standing up similar organizations in other communities.”