In 2006, in response to the expanding numbers of ill and injured Veterans entering VA and military hospitals, a granddaughter of a WWII Veteran, Gina Elise, created a unique project called, Pin-Ups For Vets,(www.PinUpsForVets.com) to serve hospitalized Veterans and to support deployed service members. First sponsored by a So. California American Legion Post, the Pin-Ups For Vets calendar fundraiser project gained much popularity among Veterans, Troops, and civilians. In 2010, this all-volunteer project, that for four years had successfully served ill and injured Veterans in hospitals across the U.S., as well as deployed troops in the war zones, finally received non-profit status.
The organization, Pin-Ups For Vets, produces a yearly 1940's-style pin-up calendar that helps to raise much-needed funding to improve rehabilitation programs in VA and military hospitals across the U.S. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated $50,000 to help purchase state-of the-art rehabilitation equipment for physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy programs in hospitals serving America's Veterans. This equipment has improved the lives of untold numbers of ill and injured Veterans.
In addition to raising funding to improve Veterans' health care, the Pin-Ups For Vets organization's Founder and its calendar girl volunteers also travel across the U.S. and overseas to personally deliver the organization's popular calendars, donated by supporters, to the bedsides of our Nation's hospitalized heroes, as a way to boost morale and show appreciation to our Veterans who are often dealing with long and painful hospital stays. In addition, Pin-Ups For Vets has received hundreds of letters of appreciation from America's service members thanking the organization for the morale boost that the calendars, packed in care packages, have provided in the war zones. The deployed troops have reciprocated by flying nine American flags over military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to honor the Pin-Ups For Vets organization and its untiring efforts to support hospitalized Vets and active duty service members. The troops have also dubbed the organization's Founder, Gina Elise, "the calendar angel" and "the Betty Grable of a new generation".
The Pin-Ups For Vets organization's volunteers are currently involved in a 50-state VA and Military Hospital tour to boost morale and show appreciation to our Nation's ill and injured heroes through personal bedside visits to deliver the donated calendar gifts, inscribed with personal messages from supporters. The organization's pin-up volunteers have completed visits to 34 VA and Military Hospitals in 21 different states. The hospitalized Veterans, so overjoyed to receive these surprise visits, the welcomed conversation, and the smiles from volunteers dressed in 1940's garb delivering the calendar gifts, that they often exclaim, "This is the best thing that has happened to me all day !" or "Am I dreaming ?" or "When you are here, my pain is gone !". One Veteran, who had sustained a traumatic brain injury and had not spoken in a month, finally spoke his first words to the Pin-Ups For Vets volunteers as they visited him at his bedside.
As Founder of this one-of-a-kind organization, Ms. Elise has earned many community service awards. She has been presented with the "Outstanding Young Californian Award" by the California Jaycees Foundation and the California Jr. Chamber of Commerce, and has been selected as "Volunteer of the Year" at the LA Business Journal's "Women Making A Difference" Awards show. She has also been honored by the Daily Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC and was also selected as a Finalist in the "Best Young Entrepreneur" category by the Stevie Awards. In 2010, Oprah Winfrey honored Ms. Elise for her untiring devotion to improve the lives of hospitalized Veterans and deployed service members.
Ms. Elise has been the featured speaker at numerous American Legion Posts, VFW Posts, Elks Clubs, Veterans' events, universities, and many other venues. She is also regularly interviewed on TV and radio (Good Day LA, Fox News, ABC News, NBC News, Time Warner Cable, Charter Cable, The Young Turks, Armed Forced Network, Iowa's KCRG, and Denver, Colorado's local NBC TV station, KNX radio, Mark and Brian/KLOS, Clear Channel radio, and many other radio stations across the U.S.) The organization's unique story has also been featured in print media (LA Times, Boston Herald, American Legion Magazine, Stars & Stripes, Washington Times, Denver Post, and in many other publications).
In January of 2011, Pin-Ups For Vets volunteers partnered with another non-profit organization, "Cooking With The Troops" and made a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to do a calendar signing and to prepare a gourmet meal for recovering U.S. troops being treated there.
Another mission of the organization is to boost morale for military spouses who carry the burden of family life while their husbands are deployed. The Pin-Ups For Vets organization has treated deserving military wives to a beauty make-over and a day of pampering, by encouraging businesses to donate their special services to give these wives of active duty and deployed service members, an appreciation day that they wouldn't forget.
Pin-Ups For Vets speaks out for the need to improve Veterans' health care and also encourages citizens to volunteer at their local VA hospitals to show appreciation and to help boost morale for our Veteran patients, both young and old, who have served during all decades from WWII to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who deal with pain from illness and injuries including burns, amputations, PTSD, traumatic brain and spinal injuries.