Empowering the Community to Support Veterans’ Health

The military prides itself on being a close-knit group, but that doesn’t mean active duty personnel, veterans and their families don’t need support from people in the larger community. That’s why, in September 2005, Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., founded the nonprofit organization Give an Hour. Van Dahlen, a psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area, wanted to develop a community-based approach for addressing the mental health challenges faced by those with a connection to the military.


Van Dahlen planned to harness the talents of volunteers with specific skills eager to offer their services. The result? A network of nearly 7,000 licensed mental health professionals who have collectively provided more than 163,000 hours of care and support over the last decade to those in need. Today, Give an Hour continues to expand its reach in the community, offering services throughout the nation.

The United Health Foundation showed its support for Give an Hour’s mission by providing the nonprofit with a $1.6 million partnership grant to expand its mental health care system for military communities in Tacoma, Washington, and Houston, Texas.

The grant is helping Give an Hour raise awareness in Tacoma and Houston’s military communities about agencies and organizations that provide culturally competent counseling to service members, veterans and their loved ones. Give an Hour will also use the funds to grow its mental health care provider network in both cities, helping military families access the resources and services they need by creating a comprehensive mental health resource list.

“No single organization can provide all of the care that our service members and their families need and deserve. And one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to addressing the invisible wounds of war such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury,” said Van Dahlen. “[But] through this generous grant from United Health Foundation, Give an Hour will [be able to] work with our partners to expand services and, most importantly, coordinate care for our military and veteran families.”

United Health Foundation awarded the grant during a service day project at the American Lake Golf Course in Tacoma. Dozens of volunteers from Give an Hour and UnitedHealthcare spent the day performing maintenance and landscaping on the golf course, which was built specifically for veterans who were wounded or have a disability.

The setting provided a reminder that mental health support to the military community can take on many forms. While the type of help offered by mental health professionals remains a crucial part of the equation, even something as simple as providing active duty personnel and veterans with a space for rest and recreation can be an important aspect of support for the brave men and women who have served our country.