Faith and Community Roundtable
In Support of Veterans
The transition from military to civilian life can be challenging. The men and women in your community who have served in the military may need assistance with preparing for the job market, identifying housing, or handling legal or other issues. On MLK Day, gather the community for a dialogue on helping local veterans make a successful transition from military to civilian life.
Organize a Veterans Roundtable to bring together faith-based and community organizations with the VA to hear about the programs the VA has for Veterans, their families, survivors, and caregivers. The goal of Veterans Roundtables is for local community leaders to understand ways to collaborate with the VA to provide support and employment services for veterans.
- Identify a Location
The groups that you want to engage in this project may help to determine the location for the event. Seek to partner with faith-based institutions, colleges and universities, and social service agencies as well as the local Veterans Affairs (VA) Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office. One of these groups may have meeting rooms or banquet halls that can be used for the event. The size of your venue will determine the number of people you can invite.
- Organize a Team to Plan
Recruit an informed team to help plan and implement the event. A successful group effort requires a motivated team that agrees upon clearly defined tasks, sets reachable goals and acts with inspiration and purpose.
- Join the VA’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (VA CFBNP) LISTSERV or email VApartnerships@va.gov to get more information on the needs of Veterans.
- Engage the VA-FBNP representative in your community for thoughts and ideas about the roundtable. Include veterans on your planning committee.
- Brainstorm a list of potential invitees by name or by title and affiliation. For example, "let's invite Pastor Grant and also the Imam of the mosque down the street.” Be as inclusive as possible and seek out people who can help to provide the services that vets need--involve both those that are currently working with vets and those who are not.
- Develop a packet of information about the roundtable and its intent that you can share with those that you invite.
- Decide how you will invite participants. Phone calls will provide the personal touch. Utilize personal contacts to make calls where possible or volunteers who are part of the community groups you are inviting. Give people plenty of lead time and recognize that some invitees may already have an annual event scheduled for MLK Day.
- What is the format?
- Engage the VA-FBNP in sharing what has worked in the past
- You could have one large group all discussing the same topic or several smaller groups in the same room that discuss various aspects of military to civilian transition and job preparedness that is shared with the larger group. If one larger group, will you invite an audience of community members? This may depend on the size of your venue.
- How long will the roundtable discussion last?
- Regardless of format, you will need one or more skilled facilitators.
- What is the desired outcome?
- Are you trying to raise awareness of the needs of veterans?
- Are you trying to get commitments from those who attend to assist veterans with job preparedness including resume writing, interview skills, mentoring, etc.? Identify "the asks" as it might be different for different groups.
- Consider having a pledge card with multiple asks that participants can check off and leave with their commitment, contact information, and preferred method for follow-up.
- Provide a deadline for RSVPs to your invitations, so that you might reach out to others, if a invitee declines.
- Promote your event among groups that you want to attend. Word of mouth and specific targeted outreach via phone calls, email, or personal contact is best when seeking a targeted group. If you decide to have an audience, you may promote the event more widely.
- Make sure to have a registration process to ensure that you can accommodate the people who plan to attend or close registration when the venue reaches capacity.
- Secure refreshments. Your hosting partner may be able to provide refreshments or you can seek in-kind donations from local businesses. Engage community members, local organizations, and businesses in providing financial and/or in-kind support for your event or activities.
- Acknowledge donors throughout your event. Add donor logos to the bottom of all material that you produce, such as the agenda for the day.
- Will anyone require accommodations to participate? Will you need a sign language interpreter?
- Do a site visit prior to the event with team leaders.
- Create a set-up that will work for your desired format; create a map of the room with where you want tables, chairs, microphones, etc.
- Post your project on our site so that people in your area can join your efforts as volunteers or participants.
- Implement the Service Project/Activities
On the day of your event:
- Make sure project leaders or coordinators are at the site early to review set-up, and greet team members and participants as they arrive.
- Officially welcome everyone and talk about the purpose of the event focusing on topics like: learning from each other, moving towards a brighter future, and serving in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Organize volunteers into different work teams. For example, have different people greeting and directing participants, handing out refreshments, responding to questions about the roundtable, or sharing stories depending on your event. Have designated seating for volunteers when they are not engaged in other activities.
- Greeters should have photos of round table participants so that they will recognize them and can greet them by name. When inviting faith leaders and military personnel, remember to double check their titles and the appropriate way to address them.
- Conduct the roundtable making sure that participants stay focused on the outcome.
- Make time for reflection with participants and volunteers. Talk about the parallels and differences between your effort to expand opportunities to help veterans successfully transition from military to civilian life and the mission of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that everyone has the opportunity to live up to the purpose and potential of America.
- If you chose to use pledge cards, make sure to collect them before participants leave.
- Reflect and Assess
After the project is completed, take some time to assess and reflect on it with your partners. Think about what went well and what could be improved.
- Host an official debrief meeting for team members after the service day.
- Examine the goals you set and consider which you met, exceeded, or didn't quite reach.
- Who did your work impact? What did you accomplish? What were your impressions of the day?
- Ask everyone for their honest assessment of what went well and how to improve for next time.
- Consider what doing this work on MLK Day, in particular, meant to you.
- Make a list and plan for necessary follow-up including who will follow-up with participants that made commitments/pledges.
- Share Your Story
We know you might not like to brag, but please do! You may inspire others to organize an event assisting Veterans once they hear what you accomplished. Share your service story. We're listening and want to know what you did.