Q&A with Wink Kopczynski on Philanthropy Forum

How did you become interested in veteran’s affairs?
I grew up around veterans, and have several friends who have served or are still serving. My initial interest in finding a place to serve the community comes from the third-person perspective of their sacrifices over the years resulted in a deep appreciation for their efforts and their willingness to put their lives on hold to improve and protect the lives of millions of people whom they will never meet. Throughout the process of planning next year’s program, I have been privileged to get a mere glimpse into their incredibly strong sense of community. 

Have any members of your family or close friends served? 
Both of my grandfathers served – my paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Navy for a few years in the early 1950s and my maternal grandfather served for 28 years, retiring in 1975 as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force.  

Why do you think it is important to focus on veterans affairs?
These men and women and their families volunteer to make such great sacrifices – physical, mental, emotional, and financial – in order for civilians to live incredibly comfortable and peaceful lives. However, outside of the short-term influx of support following a monumental (and often catastrophic) event, the support we provide for them in return is usually passive. We wave our flags at the Veterans’ Day parade, and we applaud at sporting events, but very rarely do we stop and ask ourselves what more could be done to ensure these brave men and women, and their families, are able to enjoy the full comfort and peace they provided to us during their service.  This program will take a deep dive into the resources and services available to our veterans and their families so that we may be able to gain a more thorough understanding of where we can focus our efforts to help this deserving segment of our population.

What do you hope to learn by studying this issue?
I hope to use this Forum as a process in which we can find – and close – a coverage gap between an agency or particular service effort and their intended veteran population. If our efforts result in a single veteran or their family receiving some assistance or support they would not have otherwise even known existed – much less accessed – then this program will be a success.