CHICAGO, June 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One month ago, Easter Seals announced an exciting partnership with Colonel David W. Sutherland, United States Army, Retired, and Lieutenant Commander Kim Mitchell, formerly of the United States Navy. This team, previously serving in the military as direct reports to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is focused on better connecting, coordinating and collaborating with community-based services and grassroots support for military service members, veterans, their families and families of the fallen from a local, regional and nationwide perspective. Today, with a shared commitment to serving those who have served us, this trio formally welcomes Lewis Jordan and his nonprofit GratitudeAmerica to the Easter Seals family and the organization's efforts to better support this community.
Together, this dedicated team will work to dramatically expand Easter Seals' role as a service provider and collaborator across America to close persistent, systemic and harmful gaps that diminish opportunities and the quality of life for millions of military service members, veterans, their families and families of the fallen. This new partnership's focus will be to align the myriad of supports and directly assist thousands with reintegration, employment, education, wellness and family stability, as well as expand options for housing, transportation and recreation.
"Easter Seals has provided direct services to the military community since World War II. But their needs are greater than ever, especially as the existing and probable safety net is distressingly inadequate," says James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer, Easter Seals. "Working in partnership with COL Sutherland and now, Lewis Jordan, we're ready, able and committed to enhance our network and the communities we serve to better assist service members, veterans and their families with the depth and support they deserve."
Lewis Jordan will serve as a member of the newly minted Command Council/Advisory Board for the Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services within Easter Seals. Named for Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon, a career soldier who was killed in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Dixon Center will be a clearing house for advice, information, community collaboration and outreach. It will focus on employment, education and access to health care. With COL Sutherland's leadership, Dixon Center will act as an advocate and mentor on issues and solutions affecting quality of life for veterans, military service members, their families and families of the fallen with a grassroots focus.
"This exciting opportunity to collaborate with Easter Seals, specifically with COL David Sutherland, Kim Mitchell and Dixon Center, gives GratitudeAmerica an opportunity to greatly accelerate its initiatives," says Lewis Jordan, CEO of GratitudeAmerica and co-founder and former chairman of AirTran Airways. "Our extensive due diligence has shown the thousands of organizations dedicated to helping our veterans can achieve so much more by effectively coordinating their efforts. We are pleased and honored to work hand-in-hand with Dixon Center which will be ideally suited to assist these groups in sharing their knowledge and best practices in support of our veterans and their families."
Our soldiers have returned from Iraq and are returning home from Afghanistan with various injuries that are compounded by a sense of isolation. The American people want to help, but in some places just don't know how. These heroes face unemployment, families that are not always intact, and communities wanting to meet their immediate and long-term needs. The numbers are alarming:
- To date, there are 47,740 wounded military from Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts
- Eleven to 20 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and 30 percent of Vietnam-era veterans live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- In just over 10 years, nearly 250,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury
- An estimated 18 veterans commit suicide every day; since 2001, 2,293 U.S. military have committed suicide.
- Twenty-seven percent of troops returning from Iraq/Afghanistan abuse alcohol
- One-fifth of the homeless population are veterans – 107,000 on a given night
- The divorce rate for military families increased by 38 percent from 2001 to 2010
- In 2011, the unemployment rate for Gulf War era veterans rose to 12.1 percent; for women, it's 12.4 percent
About Lewis Jordan, GratitudeAmerica
Lewis Jordan founded and serves as CEO of GratitudeAmerica, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on community support of veterans, their families and families of the fallen in the areas of employment, training, health and wellness, housing and family relationships through a network of experts in these fields. Prior to devoting himself to this mission, he had a distinguished career in commercial aviation spanning nearly 50 years. Highlights include serving as president and chief operating officer for both Flying Tigers, the world's largest international cargo and military transport airline and for Continental Airlines during its major growth and acquisition period. In 1993, Jordan co-founded ValuJet Airlines and served as president of the company and as president and chairman of its successor AirTran Airways until his retirement from active management in 1997. He remained an active member of the AirTran Board until the company's acquisition by Southwest Airlines in May 2011. During his career, Jordan served on the Military Airlift Committee of the National Defense Transportation Association and on the board of the Air Transport Association. For more information visit www.gratitudeamerica.org
About Easter Seals
Easter Seals has provided direct services to the military community since World War II. In 2005, recognizing the new and unmet needs of so many returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization renewed its commitment to military families and veterans by establishing a Military and Veterans Initiative to address serious gaps in service and mobilize its national community-based provider network. Today, Easter Seals serves thousands of military families across its 73 affiliates, 450 nationwide service sites, 24,000 professional staff and 40,000 local volunteers.
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Visit www.easterseals.com.
SOURCE Easter Seals