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“Change happens at the speed of trust”

The Story Behind the White Oak Retreat

The White Oak Retreat is an annual invite-only gathering of 50+ leaders from nonprofit, government, philanthropic, and private sectors, who are committed to brainstorming solutions to the challenges faced by military and Veteran families. These leaders come as thinkers, not as institutional representatives, and ideate in a series of workshops and off-the-record, non-attribution conversations, giving rise to a powerful germination of consensus-driven recommendations.

What inspired the name “White Oak”? It is a tribute to the location of the first two retreats—the White Oak Conference Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Participants work together, typically from Friday to Sunday, to create an environment to share new perspectives, catalyze trusted friendships, develop intellectual or operating partnerships, and identify new “big, scalable ideas.” There is an understanding that no single sector can provide all of the solutions. The move towards shared goals and aligned messaging strengthens the overall impact of our voice. 

Past participants have served at organizations from the American Red Cross, United Services Organizations, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Be the Change, Inc., Walmart Foundation, United Services Automobile Association, Council on Foundations, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and many more.

The agenda for each White Oak Retreat is determined by a steering committee of advisors from participating organizations, and typically revolves around 1-3 key issues. In the wake of each retreat, Blue Star Families releases an executive summary detailing the findings and consensus-driven recommendations that emerged from participants’ cross-sector conversations.  

2022 White Oak Retreat Summary

2018 White Oak Retreat Summary

The Impact

The story of White Oak is the story of how trust has been key to accelerate positive impact.

The first White Oak Retreat in January 2010, “America Joins Forces with Military Families,” has been described as one of the driving forces behind the 2011 Joining Forces initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. 

Other major impacts can be found in the White Oak Scorecard.

Steering Committee

  • Koby Langley, American Red Cross
  • Mike Meese, American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association
  • Charlie Williams, Armed Services YMCA
  • Kathy Roth-Douquet, Blue Star Families
  • Paul Wood, Cohen Veterans Network
  • Steven Schwab, Elizabeth Dole Foundation
  • Eric Eversole, Hiring Our Heroes
  • Jose Ramos, Wounded Warrior Project
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Armed Services YMCA logo
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American Red Cross logo
Blue Star Families Logo 2021
Cohens Veterans Network logo
Hidden Heroes Elizabeth Dole Foundation logo

Philanthropic Advisors

  • Donna Hoffmeier, TriWest Health Alliance
  • Margaret Harrell, Bob Woodruff Foundation
  • Justin Schmitt, USAA Foundation
  • Megan Everett, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Carol Eggert, Comcast Foundation
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McCormick Foundation

Looking for information about the White Oak Collaborative? Click here.