When I came on board as Executive Director of HillVets in December of 2019, I knew I was taking on a challenge. Not because the organization was struggling – quite the opposite, in fact – but because it is involved with so many impactful people and programs, and it is so deeply and personally meaningful to countless members of the veteran and military community. I share that intense connection to HillVets – my husband, Jason, was in the first class of HillVets Fellows, way back in the day. I can share more about our experiences with the fellowship in a future post. Spoiler alert: HillVets truly changed our lives for the better.

The personal tie to HillVets’ mission makes it very easy to talk about what we do and why it’s so important. But, on the flip side, it also creates extra pressure to perform, to deliver, to succeed. I embraced the challenge and jumped right in. First on my to-do list: get nominations for the HillVets 100 of 2019, put together a selection committee to determine the final honorees, announce all one hundred rock stars on social media, and then put together a tribute gala truly fitting of the incredible, inspiring people and achievements that we would be celebrating. No big deal, right?

In the first three months of my new role, I was so fortunate to get to work with our amazing sponsors AND the ever-impressive group of honorees who were planning to attend the gala. Even though hosting an event of that size is quite an undertaking, especially since we are a small team, our partners made it so much more fun. We truly believed that this year’s event would be the best HillVets 100 gala yet. And then…well, I think you know what happened next…

Coronavirus. A mere two weeks from when the gala was supposed to take place, we learned that the epidemic was spreading aggressively and that one of the best ways to halt it was “social distancing,” a.k.a. not gathering in large groups. As devastating as it was, we decided that it would be irresponsible to host our event on its scheduled date. Thankfully, we were able to secure a new date for the event, making it a postponement rather than a cancellation – which certainly helped cushion the blow.

Now, two weeks after making our decision, things continue to shift in the COVID-19 narrative. We hope that we will be able to host our gala on May 29, 2020, and that it WILL be the best HillVets 100 gala yet. But the truth is, we just don’t know what will unfold between now and then. And just like two weeks ago, the health and safety of our wonderful HillVets community is our primary concern. Any future decisions we make, about the gala or any other events, will be made with that at front of mind.

For now, though, it’s time to focus elsewhere. At present, we are working every day to help our newest bunch of HillVets House Fellows navigate the placement process in a “socially distanced” and rapidly changing world. We are brainstorming how to roll out our next LEAD cohort if we are unable to bring people together physically. And, of course, we are thinking of ways to highlight the incredible accomplishments of our HillVets 100 of 2019, in the event that we aren’t able to gather for a celebration in late May. Thankfully, it’s the year 2020, and we have fantastic technology – so you can expect HillVets to continue providing opportunities for connection and community, even if they occur over phone or video.

I never expected my first three months on the job to include responding to a global pandemic, but here we are. I am simply grateful beyond words to all of the HillVets alumni, partners, and supporters who have reached out to ask how they can help. THAT is what this organization is all about. THAT is what makes HillVets so special. And THAT is what I pledge to nurture and enhance as long as I am fortunate enough to occupy this role.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get up to speed! Please continue to watch this space for new content, as we hope to use it to highlight the fantastic people and activities that make us all proud to be part of the HillVets community.

With gratitude,

Betty Rhoades