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Family and community drive Kandace Raymond to create positive change for veterans

Family and community drive Kandace Raymond to create positive change for veterans

Jul 12, 2023 by AFP

Kandace Raymond is a force multiplier — making everyone around her stronger and more effective.

With a reliable community of volunteers and a deep connection to her mission, Kandace Raymond brings a passion to her work with Concerned Veterans for America in Texas that is changing the way CVA and Americans for Prosperity organize their communities and activate volunteers to create change.

“I think it’s just my nature,” Kandace laughs when asked about her work, “if you put a challenge in front of me, I’m just going do it.”

Kandace has spent her life rising to challenges, from being a paramedic firefighter in New York to working as a physician’s assistant in a rescue mission in Virginia to adopting her beloved children. Kandace’s life has been driven by giving her time, talent, and resources to better others’ lives.

She brought her experiences and can-do attitude to CVA and AFP in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

Kandace Raymond with Concerned Veterans for America staff.

When it comes to the basics of community organizing — making phone calls, knocking on doors, educating the community, getting signatures on petitions to change laws — Kandace’s numbers speak for themselves.

In the last 18 months, Kandace and her community have made over 550,000 calls all over the country, generating thousands of conversations about the issues facing veterans and all Americans.

But she also approaches her work with a genuine humility that makes those around her want to work together and learn from what is working in her hometown of Abilene, Texas.

We caught up with Kandace to ask her about her recent nomination for the 2023 George Gibbs Outstanding Engagement Director of the Year award, what drew her to CVA’s mission, and what advice she would give to people who want to create change in their communities.

Q: What first brought you to CVA and AFP?

Kandace Raymond with Genevieve Collins and other AFP and CVA staff in Texas.

KR: When I first attended a CVA event here in Abilene, I didn’t have any real connection to the organization. A CVA staff member was speaking about taking care of veterans and his mission to continue serving his country even though he’d taken off the uniform. I really liked what I heard, and it made a big impact on me.

Right around the time, there was a need for a volunteer coordinator, so I jumped in within the first month of learning about CVA. I learned from staff like Russ Duerstine, who was so good at motivating volunteers and inspiring us with the mission. It was just a really great place to be. And eight years later, I’m a grassroots engagement director with my own volunteer community.

Q: Why are veterans in particular important to you?

KR: My granddad was a Marine, my uncles were Marines, and some other family members too. But my granddad was a big part of my life growing up. He was my person and very special to me. So I feel like I’m honoring him and other family members in working with and for veterans.

My family connection is what originally motivated me, and now that I’ve gotten to meet so many more veterans, they continue to inspire me in this work. The more I hear stories from veterans I know and what they’ve experienced, the more I think “this is why I want to do this; this is why I want CVA to be successful.”

Family is huge for me, and the family I have that served, and this family at CVA I’ve created are what keeps me motivated.

Q: What have you found that does and doesn’t work to build your community?

Kandace Raymond enjoys some BBQ with LIBRE, CVA, and AFP staff in Texas.

KR: I’ve learned that investing in the whole family is what really works. I want my volunteers or anyone in the community who wants to be a part of CVA to feel at home and like their families are included. I’m more likely to feel that way if my whole family can be a part of something, so I really try to create a community like that here.

Q: What are you most proud of in your time at CVA? And what do you want to accomplish next?

KR: I’m proud that the community I’ve been able to build here can rise to any challenge that is put in front of us. On any given day, we can get orders to phone bank about veterans issues or get signatures on petitions to pass laws in D.C., and I can make that happen.

I want to continue building my community in Abilene because they are so important to me, but I also want to mentor other GEDs who are just coming on board. I’ve learned so much that I would love to share with others so we can all accomplish the mission.

Q: If you were going to give advice to someone just starting out as a GED or in advocacy, what would that be?

Kandace Raymond takes time to spend the day with her three grandchildren at Dave and Buster's.

KR: I tell everybody that you’re not going to build your community overnight. A lot of people think they’re going to jump right in and have 15 volunteers on any given day, and that isn’t going to happen. My first volunteers were my family, and I had to build my community up.

My advice is to know it should be slow and steady. Go to events, tell people who you are and what you do, build a routine of reaching out to people and being in constant contact. It’s a lot of hard work.