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California Pro Bono

Businesses Backing Vets: Pro Bono Aid for Homeless Heroes

Monday, June 04, 2012

 What would the world look like without the dedication of nonprofits trying to improve it? Tough to imagine, which is why I consider the business of nonprofits so vital. As a matter of fact, it's why I built a company around helping businesses and other organizations support nonprofits through impactful volunteering and giving programs. What I've discovered along the way is that sometimes responsible businesses go a step further than they imagined they could, finding innovative ways to fill support gaps that no one realized existed.

Such is the case with Merck. More than a year ago, the pharmaceutical leader decided that as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts it wanted to help homeless veterans, so the company began funding a terrific nonprofit called Community of Hope. The nonprofit doesn't limit its support to veterans, but it has become a special port in the storm for veterans who have found themselves with nowhere to go. Community of Hope provides a safe haven where homeless vets -- both men and women -- can regain their footing, finding not only food and shelter but important job training skills that will help them become self sufficient again. Merck's funds were earmarked for precisely this sort of job support.

As Merck's relationship with Community of Hope deepened through its continued support, however, Merck employees realized that there was often another obstacle that many of these homeless vets faced in order to get back on their feet: legal problems. Some veterans had single legal issues and others had multiple issues that overwhelmed the veteran as well as the Community of Hope staff attempting to assist them. It might be divorce agreements from the past, or housing, or parking tickets or health issues that required legal counsel in order to secure benefits -- but whatever the issue, it often served as a roadblock to stability.

A lightbulb went on above the collective Merck head. The company's attorneys realized that they could provide services through their substantial pro bono program that would be as helpful if not moreso than the checks their company was writing to support Community of Hope. Thus was born the Hope for Veterans Program.

 

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