Often, I find myself looking back at our March community social at Valor Brewpub. We were less than three weeks away from the HillVets 100 of 2019 Tribute Gala. Our socials are always high-energy, but the buzz was extra palpable. We had just onboarded a crew of new HillVets House Fellows who were all eagerly networking and lining up coffees and conversations. I’m always exhausted at the end of our socials (all of that talking takes it out of me!), but I remember feeling energized. It was inspiring to see our incredible network of supporters show up and make the kinds of connections that enable meaningful, positive change.
Of course, we all know what happened next. A week after the social, we had postponed the gala, vacated our office, and hunkered down for what we thought would be a (relatively) short shelter-in-place period. Now, four and a half months later, our gala has moved from postponed to canceled, and we are still severely limited in the kinds of activities in which we can engage. If you follow us on social media, you know that we’ve produced a variety of webinars, and we’ve rolled out Cohort 4 of HillVets LEAD in a virtual environment. But what’s next? I thought I’d provide a brief update on our operations, and then give you some feedback on how you can help HillVets continue to weather this storm.
Since I already mentioned our fellows, let’s start there! Right before the pandemic shut everything down, we were able to get a few of our new folks placed in Congressional offices, and they’ve been all kinds of busy! Unfortunately, we have a handful of fellows who didn’t find their perfect fit before hiring ground to a halt – while some of them have had to rethink their fellowship timing, some are still available! If you work on the Hill and need some help, look no further than our highly qualified HillVets House Fellows – we’d love to send you their resumes and help set up a virtual meet-and-greet.
Next up is HillVets LEAD – and by the way, if you haven’t checked out the bios of our incredible Protégés, you can do so here. Our Protégés and Ambassadors have been adjusting to the virtual environment and having some really thought-provoking discussions about leadership, policy development and implementation, and communications in the veteran and military arena. The group has finalized the theme for CAPCON (the day-long conference that is the capstone of the program): “Leading Paradigm Shifts in Military and Veteran Communities.” The group is still ironing out panels and speakers, but you can bet that the event will be relevant, timely, and full of interesting insight. Mark your calendars for September 29th, and stay tuned for more…
HillVets House has been pretty quiet lately, but we’re hoping to change that a bit in the coming weeks! The staff and fellows have worked hard to spruce up the yard, so we can be ready for some socially distanced, outdoor fun. Our trivia night on August 6th will be a hybrid event – you can come to the House and participate in person, or you can tune in and play from the comfort of your home. Also, if you are getting tired of your home office and want a change of scenery, why don’t you come work at HillVets House? Our coworking space has everything you need, and we’d love to see your faces – we’ll be operating a sign-up system, to ensure that we can maintain proper spacing, so look out for an announcement on that shortly.
We could not weather this storm without our incredible partners – THANK YOU to all of the individuals and organizations that make HillVets such a special and supportive community. If you or your company want to be a part of the family, we’d love to have you over for a tour and a chat!
We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and we can’t wait to see everyone again soon. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything we can do to help!
By: Conner Swett, HillVets Fellow
On the first day of my fellowship in early February, my supervisor assigned me to “track this coronavirus that is happening in China. I don’t know much about it, but I believe it can get big.” Oh, how she was right.
We are living in exciting times. COVID-19 has taken hold and forced us to be isolated from our friends and, for some of us, our families. The news tells us that it is getting worse, the White House is sending mixed messages, and misinformation is filling up social media. It has been a little more than a month, March 12th, when I last went into work for my HillVets Fellowship. The subject of my daily updates has become the thing that put my fellowship on hold, and it sucks.
It was bearable the first week with my friend Netflix, but by Week 2, I needed to create a new routine to get me through this crisis. Leaning on my Marine Corps values and the Stoic teachings, I decided to focus on five things to help me get through this time indoors. For anyone that listened to HillVets Founder Justin Brown’s April 8th webinar or read the works of Ryan Holiday, some of these will be familiar.
I have been a longtime fan of these. My morning is an essential part of my day because it’s for me, not for the world. I don’t want to look at my phone, nor do I want to turn on the TV right away. I believe it’s essential to have an hour where you can make breakfast and relax before starting work. I would feel stressed if I went from my bed straight to my computer for work. Additionally, before I start work, I review my list of things I need to do and make edits. Now my day has begun.
Goals are essential for me to feel productive. We don’t know how long this will last, but it doesn’t mean this time has to be wasted. By making some long-term improvement goals that I want to accomplish, I am then able to make weekly checkpoints that will help me reach those goals. Call it pride, narcissism, or just motivation, but when this is over, I hope to be more impressive over someone who is solely streaming.
Turn Off Social Media
I use Facebook Messenger to stay in contact with friends and family members during these trying times, but I find little comfort with scrolling through my feed. For Instagram and Twitter, I try to avoid opening the apps. We can do without a meme or snippy tweet that we probably won’t remember when this is over. Replace short-term feelings of joy, with goals that will bring long-term happiness.
Reading has become very important to me during these last few weeks. While Netflix occupied my time the first week, I now turn on some background music and pick up something to read instead. I used to hear people say that they didn’t have time to read, but now what is their excuse? I suggest finding a book and a magazine or journal to read, this way you have a balance between long and short reads.
Find something fun to do!
Despite all this stuff, it’s essential to take a break and have some fun. If you have a backyard, then play in it, or do a workout. If you play video games, then take some time to play that after work. Or arrange a virtual hangout with your friends to catch up. This time stuck indoors shouldn’t just be work and goals.
How are YOU getting through isolation? Share your tips in the comments!
Greetings! We are excited about HillVets’ first virtual trivia night – we hope you are, too! Here are some instructions and details to help everything run smoothly.
First – build your team! You can play by yourself, or you can team up with others. To keep things fair, please keep teams to 8 people or fewer. You can team up with people who live with you, or you can have a “virtual” team – for the latter, you’ll want to set up a separate Zoom or a text/WhatsApp chain so you can discuss answers with your teammates. Only ONE person from each team will submit answer sheets. Make sure to come up with a fun and creative team name – there will be a prize for the best! Let’s try to keep it family-friendly, though, since lots of folks have kids at home.
Once you have your team and team name determined, log into the trivia Zoom at 7 pm on Thursday night. The host – yours truly! – will read each round’s questions, and then you’ll have 1-2 songs to turn in your answer sheet (don’t forget to put your team name on the answer sheet). Listen closely – the songs might be musical clues to help you with one or more of that round’s questions!
There will be five total rounds of questions, with round 3 being a visual/picture round. Each round will have a separate answer sheet, which will be posted in the Zoom chat just before the round begins. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner! There will be prizes for first and second place, as well as for the best team name.
Questions? Feel free to reach out! Have a great week, and we’ll “see” you on Thursday…
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.