LeeAnna Tatum, a volunteer with SD Gunner Fund, answers this week's questions:
Q: Name and current job title?
A: My name is LeeAnna Tatum, I am the Marketing Director for Zoomability, AB, a company based out of Sweden that makes a four-wheeled, all-terrain, battery-powered mobility device called the Zoom.
Q: What is your involvement with the SD Gunner Fund?
A: I first met Britnee and Hamilton Kinard and learned about SD Gunner Fund approximately one year ago through my job (at that time) with the local newspaper. We were working on a special edition focusing on veterans, and I wrote an article about the organization and also interviewed Hamilton for an article about his service. As a result of that initial interview and subsequent meetings, a friendship developed between myself and the Kinards. I have since volunteered to help as I’m able. I have a master’s in public administration and a background with nonprofits, so I have offered my assistance in strategic planning, grant writing and marketing.
Q: How has this involvement impacted your life?
A: The process of interviewing multiple veterans, in addition to the Kinards, for that special edition was an eye-opening experience for me. I think we are all aware of how difficult things can be for veterans when they are deployed, but I was surprised to learn that for most, the difficulties truly begin when they come home. That had a profound impact on me because it means that I am much more in a position to help veterans than I had originally assumed. Knowing that it was not so much their past experience that was the problem, but what was happening in the here and now, empowered me to know that I could make a difference with the veterans that are right here at home.
Q: What are your plans for future involvement with SD Gunner Fund?
A: My future plans for involvement with SD Gunner Fund include serving on the board of directors — which I was asked to do and honored to accept — continuing to assist with any administrative issues as needed and to help raise funds and awareness for this organization in any way that I am able.
Q: How have you seen this nonprofit benefit others?
A: SD Gunner Fund has benefited many veterans in the community, and I have had the opportunity to see that impact. For me personally, however, one of the most powerful moments I have witnessed came as a result of a chance encounter at a crowded expo. We were just out enjoying our day when a woman who had seen Hamilton walk past with his service dog, Gunner, approached Britnee with concerns about her son, who was a veteran suffering from TBI (traumatic brain injury). He was there at the expo also, and Britnee and Hamilton spent close to an hour talking to him and his mother and just offering a sympathetic ear. Over the course of the conversation, it was clear that the man was frustrated and struggling to cope with his injury and the impact that it had on his life and his relationship with his wife and family. The weight of that burden was visibly lifted through the simple act of connecting with people who offered understanding and a little bit of “been there, done that” advice. It was an act of kindness that came perfectly natural to the Kinards and likely changed that man’s life in a positive way that we may never fully realize. That, to me, sums up SD Gunner Fund and the work that the Kinards do on a regular basis.
Q: What are the greatest challenges faced by the SD Gunner Fund?
A: As with most nonprofits, one of the greatest challenges SD Gunner Fund faces is raising funds. Because the nonprofit is relatively new, it is difficult to obtain grants, which often require up to five years of recorded history for approval. The organization is very small in terms of staff and is entirely a volunteer organization. All donations, whether big or small, can make a powerful impact.
Q: What can the community do to get more involved with this nonprofit?
A: SD Gunner Fund would welcome community involvement in the traditional ways: donation of funds, time and/or talents to the organization and the programs it supports. In addition, individuals in the community can show their support through advocacy within their own sphere of influence for veterans, children with disabilities and their families. Families of veterans and children with disabilities need a supportive community. These veterans and families need to know that their friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow church members are there to provide a shoulder to lean on, a sympathetic ear or a word of encouragement. Small acts of kindness can truly change a life.