FOCUS Marines Foundation – Service Never Ceases

The U.S. Marines website states that Marines share a belonging that is more than mere togetherness. This is quite evident at FOCUS Marines Foundation (FMF), a YouthBridge fundholder grant recipient. Founded in 2010 by Marines, the organization is led by volunteer veterans. Many of the founding members served in Vietnam and know first-hand the challenges faced in the transition to civilian life. Years later, recognizing that veterans coming out of the war on terror post 9/11 encountered the same issues, they embarked on a different type of service – assisting their veteran brothers and sisters in coping with these unique challenges.

Seeing characteristics in veterans that often cause a downward spiral, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, insomnia, isolation, relationships, negativity, and self-doubt, the founders developed a weeklong program called FOCUS that engages veterans from across the nation. According to Jennifer Jefferson, Executive Director, Vice-President & Team Leader of FOCUS Marines Foundation, the camp is not for rehabilitation, but participants may gain a better understanding of the root cause of a problem. As they attend sessions titled “Who Are You & Who Do You Want To Be?” and “What Do You Want To Do & How Are You Going To Make It Happen?” veterans learn they must dig deep to face their issues in order to be successful. Collaboration with other organizations, including some who are also YouthBridge grantees, is an important component.

The FOCUS retreats are held four times a year at a private property in Augusta, Missouri owned by a Marine. Each camp engages 20 to 25 participants and requires 120 volunteers. Volunteer tasks are many and varied, ranging from preparing and serving meals to facilitating sessions. Volunteer facilitators are vetted and must undergo training before working directly with FOCUS participants. They must learn the material and demonstrate the ability to lead others–to set themselves aside and remain intent on the participants.

In addition to the four retreats, FMF recently added ReFOCUS, support for graduates of FOCUS camps. This program delivers structured, long-term mentoring with volunteer mentors providing monthly Zoom meetings, as well as availability for individual discussions. The ReFOCUS program includes a review of lessons presented during the FOCUS week, along with additional discussions aimed at elevating life.

The retreats, including round trip travel from anywhere across the country, are provided completely free of charge. As one can imagine, this is quite an expensive undertaking. Jennifer explained that the cost to deliver each week totals about $160,000. FOCUS Marines Foundation receives no government funding, so it is not surprising that she expressed heartfelt appreciation to YouthBridge and its fundholder, who have been providing financial support since 2016.

When asked about some of the biggest challenges facing FOCUS Marines Foundation, Jennifer replied, “Our large Vietnam veteran volunteer base is aging. Many of our newer volunteers are still working, so committing four weeks a year to facilitating FOCUS sessions or spending hours on the transfer of knowledge is difficult.” As Volunteer Month is observed, YouthBridge Community Foundation uplifts the immense value of volunteerism. FOCUS Marines Foundation is only one of many nonprofit organizations that would not be successful without the donated time and talents of volunteers.

YouthBridge connects donors with community needs. If you are interested in learning more about how we can make charitable giving easier for you, please contact Michele Mosley.