Q: What is Folds of Honor and how does it serve our military communities?
A: Folds of Honor is a national nonprofit that provides educational scholarships for the spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled service members. The organization was started in 2007 and now has 9 chapters across the United States. The mission is driven by the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 dependents of veterans don’t qualify for federal scholarship assistance. Folds of Honor works to bridge that gap and provide educational scholarships for the dependents and spouses of those soldiers.
Q: What’s your involvement in Folds of Honor?
A: The Minnesota Chapter started in 2010, and I got involved through my college roommate. We started out volunteering at a few events like their golf tournament and concerts; little things here and there to help out.
Through this work, we realized that a majority of the support and interest behind Folds of Honor was coming from people our parents’ age and older. There’s this big gap between that generation and young professionals like us. We saw an opportunity to bridge it. We’re not necessarily seeking financial support, but if it’s a cause that people are aware of and feel passionate about, then 15 -20 years from now it’ll be front of mind for them.
With that idea, we worked with the Fold of Honor to start an Associate Board of Directors. Our goal is to build awareness and support for Folds of Honor with young professionals— people ages 22 to 35—through grassroots campaigns and events. The Associate Board of Directors idea has now been adopted by a handful of the other Folds of Honor chapters, so it’s been really cool to see the idea and potential impact grow.
Q: What is your job here at Optum, part of the UnitedHealth Group family?
A: I was part of the Consulting Development Program, and now I’m in Optum Advisory Services as a Consultant. Currently, I’m working on a project at UnitedHealthcare where I’m working to solve different issues and pain points for members on our Medicare and Retirement website. It’s figuring out how to make a hassle-free experience of being able to go into the site, get information, and complete everything they came to do.
My job involves a lot of problem solving, collaborating and critical thinking. It’s been interesting, and it’s also been a good challenge. There’s a lot of project management work, but with a balance of Business Analyst tasks that require me to know the project on a number of levels.
Q: In your opinion, why is serving military vets and their families important?
A: The people entering the work force now, were born and grew up during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s become something that is so normal now that we don’t always think about it unless we have friends or family that are directly involved. This means that we don’t always see the sacrifices that go into protecting our liberties and freedom. On top of that, the people in active duty only represent 1% or less of the population. It’s a tiny fraction of the people who are shouldering that risk to protect our freedoms.
So for me, I think it’s an easy decision. If I’m not one of the people serving in the military, what other ways can I give back? One thing Perry Schmitt, the Minnesota Fold of Honor President, has said before that really resonated with me is, “you don’t need to wear boots or camo to serve”. I think it’s great that Folds of Honor provides an outlet for people like me to give back to those who have sacrificed so much.
Q: How do our values at UnitedHealth Group align with those of Folds of Honor?
A: I think that compassion is a big one, because it’s saying, “If these people aren’t being taken care of, how can we step-up and make sure they have every opportunity that they deserve?” We can take things off their plate to make sure they can focus on the things they need to focus on.
My involvement with Folds of Honor has been really eye-opening to the amount of compassion people are willing to show. When you boil our mission down, it’s about the spouses and the kids, and about education. Those are things that people can get behind. If we can provide this for people it’s a positive thing.
The other value I think of is relationships. With a non-profit, relationships are so important to the things you’re able to get done. When we put on different events, you see people who have no prior knowledge of Folds of Honor, but they’re passionate about the mission we support. I love their passion and that they’re telling their friends. This snowballs into everything else we’re able to do.
The other piece that’s important to us at the Folds of Honor Minnesota chapter is innovation. We are still a relatively young group, and especially with the Associate Board, there is somewhat of a start-up feel. We are constantly problem solving to come up with better ways to tackle different problems. It’s been fun being in an environment of “if you’re going to fail, fail fast”. We try something out and if it doesn’t work, great! We cross that off and we can move on. We’re learning from it so we can apply those learning elsewhere.
Q: If someone was looking to join or help out Folds of Honor, how would they do so?
A: They can go on https://minnesota.foldsofhonor.org/ for additional info, to donate, or learn more about our partners. There’s also a “contact us” section if anyone wants to reach out with questions.
Otherwise, following Folds of Honor Minnesota on Facebook and Instagram is a great way to hear about upcoming events and promotions. We’ll post about any events we’re going to do, things to look out for, and more. For example, last summer we partnered with Super America who created Folds of Honor fountain drink cups and donated a certain percent of sales towards Folds of Honor scholarships. All those types of things we’ll market through social media and you can stay up to date on what’s going on.
To learn more about how UnitedHealth Group supports military families, click here