In my nearly 30 years in franchising, and as a former Chairman of the IFA, I've met some incredible veterans doing remarkable things in their communities.
One such example is Steve Ralston, a 20-year Army veteran who owns ComForCare Home Care of Northern Michigan. His ComForCare franchise is attached to the VA hospital in the area, giving him a direct opportunity to provide home care to veterans in his community. But what truly makes Steve stand out is how he gives back to his local community outside of work.
On Veterans Day, Steve sponsors an event called "A Message of Thanks," where hundreds of veterans in the surrounding area are invited to enjoy a free lunch as a small token of appreciation for their service. Steve and four other veterans also bought and renovated a dilapidated bowling alley to create a family-friendly atmosphere for the community, run by veterans, where all proceeds go back to supporting veterans and their loved ones.
Providing a Future
Veterans are a vital part of the franchising community. While they may make up just 7 percent of our population in America, they make up 14 percent of the overall franchising network. Franchising has proven to be an ideal structure for veterans to become leaders in the U.S. economy. The skills learned in military training--leadership, adaptability, teamwork, strong work ethic--fit naturally when transitioning to small business ownership through franchising.
The IFA takes its mission to support and hire veterans seriously, primarily with the Veteran Transition Initiative (VetFran). VetFran includes more than 650 franchise systems across the country that have helped more than 6,500 veterans and military spouses to date acquire a franchise business. With the support of VetFran, veterans go from serving our country to serving our communities with the same selfless dedication.
Eye on Military Caregivers
VetFran brought Steve into our ComForCare franchising community. To continue to attract more people like Steve, we must develop new programs to support veterans and their families.
Therefore, I'm thrilled that VetFran, in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, is spearheading a new initiative aimed at another vital sector of our veteran population in need of support: military caregivers. These caregivers are a 5.5 million-strong community, comprised primarily of...