Sabine Ward & Claire Manning-Dick
Ideas for Outreach Opportunities
By Sabine Ward & Claire Manning-Dick
Claire and I connected and discussed ideas on how to not only connect to our current members and figure out ways to reach to other widows/widowers that we are currently not aware of. We agreed that there are simple, yet effective ways, we can be a more caring and supportive. We believe that those small ways could have a great impact on someone else’s life and ultimately on our organization, and by doing so it will connect us to those that are currently not aware of our existence.
Create a “Telephone Tree”:
- As we all know it is getting more and more difficult to cope for people with the ongoing pandemic, and it will take some more time for us to get through it. Many feel isolated with nobody around them to talk to or to do things with. We thought it would be a kind gesture to create a list with current members, that I will create, and periodically check on the welfare of our members via telephone calls. To let them know that they are not alone, and we care.
- Sincerely ask people how they are and become sensitive to the different needs and how we might be able to help them.
- Listening to their stories can touch and move their heart.
- Find out how they are doing, what is new in their lives
- Actively encourage them to share their troubles with us and make them feel truly valued.
We may even provide a service for our older widows/widowers, such as picking up medication, taking someone to the store etc. The possibilities are endless, and we could connect people in the same cities and towns with one another to make it even more personal.
Train willing GSW as Peer Mentors:
Try to help even in small ways.
- The TAPS peer mentor program, which is free to all of us, could get those who are interested trained in a very short amount of time. As we know suicide rates have gone up since the pandemic began. Isolation and subsequent loneliness that follows causes depression that is difficult to deal with for those who live alone, which affects the majority of us. Once people are trained to respond, listen and assist those who contact us, we become a resource to many who are far away from us…too shy, or proud to ask for help. Claire and I are sure that this will also provide us the opportunity to gain more members once word gets around. We would post and announce such programs onto our social media page to connect with people by word to mouth.
Helping others does not always have to be a grant gesture. Even simple ways can be a big effect, such as,
- Writing a Birthday or Christmas card each year
- Sent an encouraging note when someone is sick or deals with some kind of issue in their lives.
We all face problems of some kind at different times in our lives, and words of encouragement and support can mean the world to those individuals. And make us, the organization, a valuable resource when they have nobody else to turn too. We may not be able to help them all, but we should give it a try.
Reach out to Funeral Homes:
Reach out to VFW’s and Foreign Legion Riders
- Ask members to reach out to their local funeral homes and explain our mission, which is to aid and assist in the trying times ahead. We may receive permission to leave Gold Star Wives brochures with them and have them provide those brochures to a military spouse at a military funeral. With current contact information such as name, email, phone number, and a kind message. It is worth a try.
Become active in the community we live in
- As we all know most military organizations do not know we even exist. We want to change that! These Veterans, and their families would do anything for us. They could become a great resource for us in the future and help us spread the word about our organization. We would like to create Zoom meetings with information on the importance of SGLI, current legislation benefiting widows/widowers, other benefits and programs available to widows/widowers, and provide other resources and become a contact for those who will need it one day. (I am currently working to have a suicide expert who works for the VA conduct a Zoom meeting to inform members on not only suicide prevention, signs of suicidal behavior, post-vention but would be able to answer other questions. She may be able to help me find others within the system to do the same on other subjects that are interesting to our members).
Once I spend some time thinking about the needs of your community, many things came to mind. Choosing to be a representative of the diversity and social culture of our community such as at a church, attending indigent veteran funerals and share in our official page where and when they happen so people can attend, volunteer with a local organization and post that event, with pictures on social media and our official GSW page.
Other matter that I would like to discuss at an upcoming board meeting
Creating a new message on our brochure
- Keep information clearer and more well-defined on one page
- What do we stand for as an organization? (What is our mission and how is it fulfilled?)
- What services do we provide that widows/widowers can’t get from the DoD, VA, TAPS or any other military organization that provides services to surviving spouses? (Besides the opportunity for “a meaningful connection with other board members and people interested in the same cause”.)
- We need to become more current and attractive for younger survivors because there are many private groups that provide those connections and interests. (How can we make others more passionate about our organization?)
- Changing our name to “Gold Star Spouses” would attract widowers (which I am not sure we are reaching at this time being the “Gold Star Wives”).
- Creating a new outfit, that makes all of us look more attractive, current and noticeable/recognizable
Sabine Ward & Claire Manning-Dick
Gold Star Wives of America Inc.