Zero8Hundred Secures Landmark MOU With U.S. Navy

zero8hundred Secures Landmark MOU With U.S. Navy

A special thanks to zero8hundred CEO, Stephanie Kiesel, for special contributions to this article. 

A local nonprofit whose roots began at San Diego Grantmakers has just achieved 501(c)3 status, and locked in an unprecedented 9-year MOU with the U.S. Navy. To understand the significant magnitude of these milestones and what they mean for our San Diego community let’s back up to the beginning.

Around the country, approximately 200,000 military service members take off their uniform for the last time every year. San Diego County has the largest concentration of these transitioning military personnel – numbering close to 20,000 annually – and about 30% of them are looking to stay in our local community post-service. Studies show that this transitioning population is one of great promise. Our military service members are well trained, team oriented, and hardworking, but also in need of support. At a national level, we know that half of these veterans experience difficulty transitioning to civilian life. Challenges with transition affect not only the service members, but their spouses and families as well, perhaps for many years to come.

In 2014, the San Diego Grantmakers Military Funders collaborative came together, and through their early needs assessment work identified that our military program efforts were not individualized enough nor provided early enough to effectively support a successful transition to civilian life. They recognized that there were plenty of community resources that could do so, but our valued patriots were unable to successfully navigate through and connect to the local service providers best suited to assist them with their unique post-service goals. With these findings, the zero8hundred project was conceived.

zero8hundred provides a one-stop resource hub to transitioning service members, recent veterans and their spouses (including Gold Star spouses) to help them navigate through and connect to the local non-profits and community agencies who can best support all their specific post-service needs – eliminating the necessity to figure out their transition plan all on their own. zero8hundred offers this free individualized 1:1 resource navigation support up to 9 months pre-separation until 12 months post-service. The zero8hundred team are trained resource counselors, with lived military experience themselves, and are committed to walking alongside zero8hundred program participants to help them design and execute their most successful post-service journey.

In late 2014, with the RADM Dixon Smith at the helm of Navy Region Southwest, a formal partnership with local military bases was established via a first of its kind 5-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that allowed the zero8hundred military transition support program to be presented by Navy-contracted instructors during on-base federally mandated separation classes. This MOU established a public-private partnership for military transition support that paved the way for the zero8hundred program to be piloted as an early-intervention, preventative support model facilitating a path to self-sufficiency for local transitioning Naval personnel and their spouses, significantly reducing their frustration trying to navigate their transition journey on their own.

What was originally dubbed a pilot effort quickly saw serious sticking power.

“We have had over 4,000 military personnel and their spouses join the zero8hundred program to assist them with their transition to civilian life in the first four and a half years. And we are thrilled to share that Navy Region Southwest has again stepped forward to support a better solution for these patriots to overcome the obstacles of transition to civilian life. In late May 2019, Navy Region Southwest signed a follow-on MOU, extending its exclusive partnership with zero8hundred, but this time for a period of nine years – all the way until 2028.” shared Stephanie Kiesel, CEO of zero8hundred.

Navy Region Southwest has never before made such a long-term commitment to a local nonprofit organization to support them in their efforts to aid service members and their families in their transition to civilian life, and the MOU serves as an indicator of the positive impact zero8hundred is having on our military.

For Kiesel, this represents an indicator of positive impact as well as the ability to reach transitioning service members at a very critical point in transition. “This MOU serves as a “seal of approval” for a partnership that was considered simply a “pilot” during the first MOU period. But more than that, it means zero8hundred can have access to transitioning service members when the information is often most valuable, inside the fence line, up to nine months prior to their separation from active duty service.”

The Military Funders remain closely connected to the efforts of zero8hundred and are also funding efforts to end homelessness among veterans and their families; and working with community groups to better understand how to ensure active duty military families always have food in their pantry and a hot meal on the table at dinner time. For more information about the Military Funders, please contact Megan Thomas, Vice President of Collaboration & Special Initiatives, at [email protected].