Who: Jim Hake, age 65
What: CEO and Founder, Spirit of America
Where: Arlington, Va.
What is the mission of Spirit of America? To engage citizens in preserving the promise of a free and better life. And we do that by working alongside U.S. troops and diplomats all over the world to help them save and improve lives and promote values that are shared by Americans and our allies. In the larger scheme, it is to demonstrate that the U.S. is a friend of those who seek a better life.
How did it start? I was motivated by the attacks of 9/11 to do something to stand up for what America stands for. I was a businessperson, without any government or military experience. But I have always felt that what America stands for really matters: the promise of a free and better life. What gave me the idea for the organization was a National Geographic show about U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan doing things to help the local population in very remote villages with help from friends and family back home. I contacted people who had connections with soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How many people work for you? There are 35 members of our team full-time. We’ve almost doubled in size in the past 12 months, and we’re significantly growing the organization.
What kind of work have you done in Afghanistan? We provided assistance in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, mostly at the village level in support of U.S. military and civilian personnel. And when the evacuation crisis began in August 2021, our team was very involved, some directly coordinating evacuations, getting at-risk Afghans out to safety. More recently, we have been supporting a school for Afghans in Tajikistan of about 500 boys and girls that had been funded by the Afghan government. But with the Taliban taking control of the country, that funding stopped.
At what point did you begin focusing on Ukraine? Spirit of America has been involved in Ukraine since 2014, when Russia took control of Crimea and the Donbas. We helped launch Ukraine’s first armed forces media entity, an FM radio station called Army FM, to meet the needs of Ukrainian soldiers.
What aid have you been delivering since the war began in 2022? Our main focus has been providing protective aid, such as ballistic helmets, bulletproof vests, vehicles and first-aid kits, as well as food and clothing. Our support has been focused on protective aid for Ukrainian soldiers and civilian volunteers on the front lines.
Has it been difficult to deliver aid? Thanks to the relationships we have, our logistics are extremely fast and effective. For example, we have had assistance delivered into Poland on cargo planes with protective aid and assistance for the Ukrainian troops and the aid has been in their hands within 36 hours.
Where does funding come from? We’re an entirely privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. And the response of Americans who want to help has been very, very encouraging. For people who donate, we have what we call our 100% promise that if people choose to support a project in Ukraine or in any other part of the world, 100% of their funds will be used to pay for the expenses of that project. People can donate to specific projects through our website or by making a note on a check.
Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.
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