Private Grant Gives Major Funding Boost for Handful of Military Nonprofits

This is not Larry's actual flower pot or flag.

Five nonprofits on Friday announced plans to expand their services thanks to a multimillion-dollar grant from transportation company CSX.

Representatives with the five nonprofits, which include military-focused groups Blue Star Families, Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Gratitude and Operation Homefront as well as the emergency services-focused First Responders Children's Foundation, said the grant will allow them to beef up specific portions of their programs, with a focus on the 23 states in the eastern U.S. where CSX has employees.

That location factor is important, said Bryan Tucker, a CSX spokesman, because the company doesn't want to commit just money. It also wants its employees to commit volunteer hours.

"We were looking for a way to make a big impact -- not only in the community addressing a real need but also give something for our employees to rally behind and get behind that was important to them," he said. "Service is very much a part of who we are, and we wanted to extend that service to a community that so selflessly serves all of us every day, keeping us safe and protecting us."

Rather than simply selecting military and first responder issues as the focus of its corporate philanthropy strategy, Tucker said CSX asked its employees, about 3,700 of whom have military or first responder backgrounds, to tell it what they care about. Although there was a wide variety of suggestions, military and veteran issues rose to the top.

Thanks to the grant -- Tucker said they aren't disclosing the specific dollar amount -- all of the selected charities will be able to expand services they offer, many of which are also things with which CSX employees can volunteer.

For example, Operation Gratitude, which provides care packages to deployed troops among others, will be able to send more than 65,000 more care packages, which must be assembled by volunteers. And Blue Star Families will expand its Connected Communities program, which links military families with their civilian neighbors.

Wounded Warrior Project will fund its community 5k race program, Carry Forward, which is designed to connect veterans with the local community, as well as other local veteran nonprofits. Operation Homefront will be able to expand who qualifies for its financial assistance programs, officials said, and the First Responders Children's Foundation will expand its scholarship program.

"Partnerships like this and powerful voices like CSX really elevate and highlight some of the concerns and issues of our community," said Chaitali Patel, an external affairs official for Blue Star Families. "People want to serve and work and do things for military families, and they're just not familiar with where to start. Those are the little things that matter." 

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