Resources and Support: A History of Serving Veterans
with Kendra E. Davenport of Easterseals
Transitioning from active military service to civilian life can present unique challenges for veterans and their families.
Kendra E. Davenport, President and CEO of Easterseals, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the organization’s historic efforts and new initiatives to connect veterans and military families with the appropriate services and support they need.
October 31, 2022
Anderson: In the months following the end of World War II, millions of soldiers returned home to civilian life. Returning service members were eager to get on with their lives. But transitioning back presented challenges, including leaving the military, and the communities to which they returned were not the same as before the war. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The end of World War II marked the start of new services by Easterseals to support transitioning service members and their families. Joining me to discuss the history and evolution of serving veterans and military families is Kendra Davenport. She is president and CEO of Easterseals. Kendra, welcome to the program.
Davenport: Thank you, Tetiana. It's nice to be here.
Anderson: So as a national board member of Easterseals, I know that the organization's mission is to deliver disability services, but that more and more includes the veteran community, right? I mean, explain that overlap for us.
Davenport: It absolutely does. And you're right. We began providing services to veterans, military veterans and military families, shortly after World War II when they came back from the war and they needed rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapies because of injuries they sustained. Since then, what Easterseals does for veterans and military families has evolved to include a whole host of things. But probably one of the most important things is helping military service members transition into civilian life when they separate from the service.
Anderson: So I know you obviously have a deep commitment to the organization, but the veterans aspect is very personal to you. Explain that.
Davenport: It is. I am the daughter of a retired Navy commander, many years retired, but he was a career veteran, and my husband is a career Coast Guard veteran. 35 years he served.
Anderson: Let's get a little bit deeper into the services that Easterseals is providing to these veterans. What are you doing when it comes to homelessness, mental health, and other issues?
Davenport: Those are all issues veterans struggle with. We have a number of affiliates across the country that provide counseling, provide family services for active duty military veterans, family members, and caregivers. And right here in the DMV Easterseals affiliate has a connection and is home to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Center, which provides rehabilitative mental health services for veterans and their families, as well as caregivers. We also provide a whole host of health rehabilitation services for veterans that are disabled. We provide care support. So whether it's respite care or whether it's in-home care, those kind of things, as well as early childhood intervention and childcare.
Anderson: And on that note, you took over as president in 2022. So what's your mission for the organization as it continues to grow?
Davenport: Well, Easterseals was founded 103 years ago. We've been around a long time. And as you said, we began treating and working with veterans right after World War II. We do an awful lot for the disabled community. And we like to say we lead the way to full equity inclusion and access to health, education, and employment for people with disabilities. But many people outside the disabled community don't know what Easterseals does. So I really look to educating the public about the breadth and scope of our mission, the breadth and scope of our services, what our 70 affiliates and 32,000 staff members do for 1.5 million people with disabilities in the United States.
Anderson: I know a lot of people are gonna want to know more about all of these services. What's the organization's website?
Davenport: It's Easterseals.com, and anyone can go there to access and find where to access local services in their community at an Easterseals affiliate.
Anderson: Kendra Davenport, president and CEO of Easterseals, thank you for joining me.
Davenport: Thank you so much, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thanks to you for watching, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, just visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.