On this episode of the Carlsbad People, Purpose, and Impact Podcast, Bret Schanzenbach talks with the executive director of VANC, Lori Boody. With 30 years of business experience, Lori has been a successful business owner and has worked with many humanitarian organizations, including Adventist Health and the American Cancer Society. Her passion for helping people has guided her to volunteer at various organizations, which ultimately led to her position at VANC. She and Bret discuss how VANC began, what the organization has done to serve the military community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways they are utilizing their resources to help those throughout North County.
Lori Boody’s Heart for the Military
Self-described “professional volunteer” Lori Boody has always devoted herself to non-profits. Her heart for serving others in the community has led her to serve in various capacities at different charitable organizations. This passion, coupled with her natural gift for logistics and organization, makes her an invaluable part of any organization. Veterans, in particular, have had a special place in Lori’s heart, which is why she started volunteering at VANC 9 years ago. Just 6 years later, VANC created a paid position—the only paid position at the organization—for Lori as their executive director.
Alongside serving as VANC’s executive director, Lori is also the chair of Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee, which helps bridge the gap between businesses and the men and women of Camp Pendleton. Many of the businesses that are part of this committee offer military discounts, support, and job opportunities for military spouses. The committee meets on the last Friday of every month at 0800 and welcomes anyone who wants to support the military.
VANC: Veterans Association of North County
VANC was founded by three-branch veteran Chuck Atkinson, who originally began the organization to provide a location that would meet the needs of groups, such as the American Legion, women Marines, and Buffalo Soldiers. He went to the city of Oceanside and explained his desire to secure a place where he could provide services to his fellow veterans and servicemen and women in the community. He collaborated with organizations in the community, and the city offered him the former Oceanside Police Department building. However, they gave a stipulation: Chuck had to come up with all the fundraising and pay for the maintenance. With $300 in his pocket, he signed the lease and, two years later, with the help of volunteers and the community, he raised $1.4 million to transform the facility.
Now, VANC operates not only as a meeting place, but also offers support as an umbrella membership organization for 25 veteran companies, as well as corporations that want to support the military. As a 501c3 non-profit, VANC also provides services to assist veterans and active-duty military with jobs, education, finances, health, and wellness. All of their training programs are free to military veterans and their families. One of their programs, Vets Beyond the Uniform, offers coaching, mentoring, and training in over 200 career paths to military veterans.
In addition to this, VANC works closely with Camp Pendleton to support the men and women stationed there. In fact, Camp Pendleton houses over 50,000 active servicemembers and there are over 77,000 veterans within a 50-mile radius of the base. Certainly, there is a vast, diverse military community that VANC and the Military Affairs Committee serve.
Serving Where They Are Needed: VANC’s Response to the COVID Pandemic
Without a doubt, everything changed when the world shut down on March 16th, 2020. However, those in the military community were hit exceptionally hard. By the end of March 2020, 90% of military spouses had been furloughed.
Immediately, Lori jumped into action. VANC, the North County Food Bank, and American Legion Post #760 all teamed up to distribute food and diapers. From April 2020 to August 2021, they served 31,028 people (91% of whom are active duty) and gave away 264,032 diapers. “We couldn't do any of the things that we do without the help of the volunteers,” Lori asserts. “We've had over 4,900 hours contributed just for that cause. We even have volunteers who home deliver to seven house-bound veterans that can't get out.”
VANC’s goal is to not just support the military community, but also to honor them. In fact, VANC’s next project is an honor wall and community event space, which will be right outside their facility. The honor wall will have individual brass plaques to honor active-duty servicemen and women, as well as military veterans. Over three years, they have raised about $332,000 to pay for constructing the space. However, when COVID hit, they utilized these funds to provide relief and help military spouses make ends meet. Now, their funds for the honor wall are depleted, but VANC wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It's just fundraising,” Lori says. “We can start again and do it again. I share this story a lot because I really need people to understand that we are so blessed to be able to help them, and that's what we're here for. That's what VANC does.”
Not only does VANC receive funds through donors and the occasional grant, they also receive funding by renting their event space. Their space is open to everyone, has 241 plated dinner seats or 300 theater-style seats, offers an excellent catering service, as well as fantastic bartenders. VANC’s space also includes four meeting rooms of various sizes, if people need a space for executive board meetings or large organizational meetings.
Another exciting development for VANC is their upcoming podcast, which will be available on all major platforms and on their website. “It's going to be a really exciting way to hear more about the military life and things that people may not have known about the military lifestyle, as well as Camp Pendleton,” Lori explains. The podcast will be launched in September and will share the voices of veterans and active-duty military from across the country.
If you want to donate to VANC’s Honor Wall or subscribe to their podcast, click on one of the links below!
Reach out to Lori Boody.
Did you like what you heard? This show is produced by Imagine Podcasting dba Heard Not Seen Media, Inc. For more, visit Imagine Podcasting.