Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $6.3 million grant to the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue, the university's president announced Wednesday (Dec. 15).
"This institute is a leader at the national level and plays a critical role in Indiana where most of our service members and veterans are part of the National Guard or Reserves and lack the built-in supports provided by a large military installation," said Purdue President France A. Córdova. "The Lilly Endowment's generosity enables Purdue to work with communities, schools, organizations and the military so these families receive the assistance they need."
Indiana has 23,674 active duty, National Guard and Reserve component troops, with members residing in every county in Indiana. Currently, 1,812 are mobilized or deployed.
"Millions of military families in our country are recovering from, or still experiencing, challenges related to combat deployment," said the institute's director, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth. "Our state and our nation are in a critical period that will determine whether recent veterans will suffer the same troubling levels of poverty, homelessness and health problems experienced by their predecessors. If we fail to do a good job of serving those who have served our country, we all will pay the price."
The Military Family Research Institute's (MFRI) efforts include:
- Passport Toward Success, a program that helps military children and families reunite and reconnect after a parent returns from deployment.
- Grants of up to $2,500 for Family Readiness and Community Mobilization groups to strengthen community partnerships that help military families.
- Operation Purple Camp, a free camp for children of parents who will soon be leaving, are serving outside the country or have just returned. Purdue MFRI and the Department of Health and Kinesiology operate one of the only Operation Purple camps located on a college campus.
- Operation Diploma, which has awarded $1.4 million in grants to higher education institutions in Indiana to support programs that help veterans succeed on campus by increasing access to credit for military training, minimizing deployment-related educational disruptions, training faculty and staff about these students' needs, and supporting student veteran organizations on college campuses.
"MFRI's goal is to make Indiana a better place for military families and to generate tools and insights here that can benefit military families everywhere," said Wadsworth, who in addition to directing the center is a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue. "We want everyone who comes into contact with military families, whether in the military or in civilian communities, to be well-prepared and motivated to be helpful, and we want military families to feel well-supported and use all the help they need."
An MFRI priority is to conduct research that can inform military programs, practices and policies related to families. A forthcoming scientific journal article addresses gaps in networks of mental health-care providers for military families. Previous studies were influential in ensuring that reserve component family members have job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for military-related needs.
National leaders are listening. First Lady Michelle Obama and vice presidential spouse Jill Biden have issued a call to action to everyone in the nation to support military families, and MFRI leaders have been invited multiple times to the White House to offer guidance.
Created in 1937, Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation that supports the causes of community development, education and religion.
The Military Family Research Institute is the leading academically based organization in the nation that conducts research about, with and for military families. MFRI, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, is part of the Center for Families in Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences.