The Air Force Enlisted Village has been creating donor gifts with Beacon Design since 2016. I recently spoke with their Director of Marketing, Scarlett Bauman. Scarlett shared their inspiring mission and how they are able to help hundreds of surviving Air Force spouses. For this reason, I hope that this blog will continue to spread awareness for this amazing organization.
The Air Force Enlisted Village (AFEV) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a home for surviving spouses of retired enlisted U.S. Airmen. The community is located in Shalimar, FL in between Eglin Air Force Base and Hulburt Field. AFEV supports residents with both independent and assisted living options. Bob Hope Village, opening in 1985, is where active adults who are 55 years or older live. Those who need assisted living or the memory care wing (Dementia and Alzheimer’s residents) reside in Hawthorn House. Currently, a total of 500 spouses live at AFEV. In addition, they have started expanding Bob Hope Village. Once this is complete, they will have 63 more units that can be occupied.
Having never heard of a community like AFEV, I was curious how this concept came to be. Scarlett shared that in the 1960s a survey was taken which found that widows of retired military members were living in poverty. At the time, there was little to no support that helped the spouses. As a result, a group of Air Force members got together to provide a community specifically for Air Force widows. I was shocked to learn that the Air Force is the only military branch that currently offers this type of community. Last year, the AFEV celebrated their 50th anniversary!
The Life of a Military Spouse
Scarlett began working for AFEV over nine years ago. She explained that she had always worked in marketing and public relations, but never on the nonprofit side until she moved to FL ten years ago. Her goal was to find a job where she felt she was making a difference. Similar to the residents at AFEV, Scarlett is also a former military spouse. Scarlett says. “Most civilians don’t understand what it’s like to move around all the time. Here, they all have the same connection and have lived the military lifestyle.” She goes on to explain that for military spouses it is difficult to have their own career because of the constant relocation. With that said, saving for their own retirement is most often impossible. This is one of the main reasons why this organization was started. For Scarlett, the most rewarding part of her job is getting to know the residents. She enjoys writing their newsletter articles because she has the opportunity to sit down one on one and hear the residents’ stories. AFEV also has a variety of activities and events year-round that Scarlett enjoys taking part in with the residents.
Similar to most nonprofit challenges, fundraising is always at the top of the list. Each year, AFEV has to raise about 2.5 million in order to continue to provide their services to their community. Scarlett said that they had been looking for a new way to thank their donors. They were familiar with Beacon Design’s ornaments because AAFES also sell our custom ornaments at their base Exchange. In 2016, Scarlett and her team decided to go forward with their first custom ornament program. Their ornaments are primarily created as a gift for their residents and donors. They often have extra that they will sell in their gift shop at Hawthorne House and the convenience store in Bob Hope Village. Scarlett shares that, “Residents love the ornaments and they look forward to adding them to their collection each year.” She said “We are proud to give the ornaments to our donors and residents because they are beautiful, high quality, branded product. The whole process has always been easy and pleasant for me.”
The Future of the Air Force Enlisted Village
AFEV will continue to strive to provide a state of the art senior living community for surviving military spouses. “The health and wellness are a very important part of the lifestyle at the village,” says Scarlett. As a matter of fact, they just recently opened their new fitness wing and are renovating their community center for more activities and events. “We want them to experience healthy aging.” It’s extremely important to Scarlett and her organization that they continue to spread awareness to reach spouses of retired enlisted Airmen. She says “AFEV is much more than just an apartment complex because we provide so many other services, amenities, and events.” AFEV’s guiding philosophy on how they treat their residents and each other is to ask themselves: “Would I do this for my Mom?”, “Would I do this with my Mom?” and “Would my Mom approve?”