Military life can come with unique challenges and may require additional support and resources once active duty has ended. But Raven Hilden, a 2014 graduate of University of Phoenix and military veteran spouse, discovered that the services she and other military families needed were not always readily available.
Hilden, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Management, saw a gap that she was uniquely positioned to fill. In response, she launched a 501(c)3 nonprofit she named MilVet to help military veterans and deployed troops receive necessary services and assistance. These span material necessities in the form of monthly care packages, donations, and holiday gifts as well as access to fitness training, rehabilitation services, health clinics, educational programs and housing assistance.
MilVet has since helped thousands of active service members, veterans and their families by providing hundreds of care packages full of snacks, hygiene products and specially requested items. These were often accompanied by personal letters to troops stationed abroad with the help of a team of volunteers.
In 2020 alone, over 60 military children received gifts through MilVet, and many others received meals and food assistance.“Service members often do not serve alone; their family serves along with them,” Hilden told the SDVoyager in an interview.
The nonprofit initially began as a project for one of Hilden’s University of Phoenix classes in which students were required to design a fictional nonprofit. But after she detailed the plans for her business, Hilden knew that she had found her passion.
MilVet Founder and CEO Raven Hilden knew how to best serve military families because she had needed similar support for her own family. Her husband is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and is a partial amputee due to injuries sustained during service. Hilden’s son-in-law also became disabled during his service to the country as an Army paratrooper.
She knows first-hand the challenges that military families face pursuing jobs, legal advice, housing, mental health and rehabilitation services. Hilden wanted to create a space that made it easier for veterans, active military and their families to access the help they needed. She also wanted her efforts to provide opportunities for those who wanted to support the troops to do so in a meaningful, coordinated way.
In October, MilVet was named 2021 Nonprofit of the Year by the Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber of Commerce in California for its dedicated work supporting military families. “I am so proud of our MilVet team and volunteers that work tirelessly and pour their heart and soul into their work,” Hilden told Businesswire in a related release. “Our success is possible because of them, our amazing community, the Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber and all of our supporters.”
In addition, Hilden received the 2020 Major Fannie Griffin-McClendon Scholarship from University of Phoenix and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) Foundation. The scholarship is designed to provide additional support to military families pursuing their higher education goals and helped support Hilden’s pursuit of her bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix.
One of the great benefits of Hilden’s organization is that active military members, veterans and their families can find the support they need all in one place. There are links to 24-hour crisis lines, information about VA health clinics, mental health care services and addiction recovery programs.
Service members, veterans and family members can also access online educational programs like Vet to CEO, which provides free entrepreneurship training and VTS No Cost Programs which help service members transition into new careers. The organization also sends out a monthly newsletter with updates about their care packages, testimonials, fundraising events and spotlights of veterans to create an active and engaged community.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit veteran families particularly hard, Hilden told the SDVoyager. “This has been a busy time for the nonprofit,” she said, “as we have assisted with resumes, job searches, helped with food and basic necessities, partnered to help replace broken appliances and more. We are hosting events to provide resource assistance and ways for veterans to connect with other veterans and the community to strengthen their connections and support system.”
University of Phoenix is committed to making sure higher education is accessible to adult and nontraditional learners including active military service members and veterans. The University helps students explore financial options and resources that may be available to help reach their educational goals more affordably including a scholarship specifically created for military families.
University of Phoenix offers options designed for working adults including flexible schedules, online classes, degree programs for high-demand careers. All of these resources may help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.