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An interview with Susan Ludwig about the Coast Guard Foundation's latest news

by David Schmidt 28 Mar 2023 08:00 PDT March 28, 2023
Susan Ludwig is the Coast Guard Foundation's president © Coast Guard Foundation

While the United States Coast Guard has a world-class reputation for saving lives and protecting American interests on the high seas, this sometimes comes with a personal cost for USCG servicemen and servicewomen. Fortunately, the Coast Guard Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, exists to step in and help those brave individuals who put themselves (and their families) second in order to put the maritime community first.

This help can range from funding exercise equipment at USCG facilities to helping with college scholarships for the children of servicemembers who paid the ultimate price keeping sailors, mariners, and civilians safe.

While the Coast Guard Foundation has existed since 1969, the organization recently went through a rebranding, including a new website, so I thought it would be a good time to check in with Susan Ludwig, president of the Coast Guard Foundation, via email, to learn more.

I see that you guys have a new logo—can you tell us about it, and the reason for the change?

Our new logo and brand reflect our current and future support for the Coast Guard. Our logo was essentially unchanged since 1969; in recent years, we recognized that a more modern, clean look would better represent our support for the Coast Guard online and in print.

Our new logo consists of the shield mark and type treatment. In the shield mark, the inner shield represents the Coast Guard members, the outer shield represents the Foundation.

Combined these two shields create a powerful symbol of support, protection, and community.

The iconic Coast Guard stripes make up the inner shield, providing a clear tie to the Coast Guard. The word Foundation is bold, visually supporting the words Coast Guard.

Branding aesthetics aside, what else is new or improved at the CGF since we last corresponded?

We are engaged in growing our community of donors to really increase the breadth and depth of our support for Coast Guard members. In the last couple of years, we've reinforced our support for the mental resiliency and well-being of members through a unique partnership with the Coast Guard's chaplain corps. They are often on the front line of providing support to members in crisis.

In addition to providing resiliency and suicide-prevention training and workshops, they help members and families personally so they can thrive despite the challenges of military service.

Last year's hurricane season—and the damage it incurred—was brutal. Can you please give us an example or two about how the CGF helped out?

In both Puerto Rico and Florida, we provided grants to Coast Guard members impacted by Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian. Our grants help Coast Guard members rebuild and recover.

For some folks, it was emergency supplies to shore up their damaged properties until they could begin the real work of bringing in contractors to fix things. For others, it was helping to cover their insurance deductibles, which often run thousands of dollars, and is a very real unplanned expense.

The goal of the emergency disaster-relief program is to lessen the financial burden on members and families so they can focus on the important work of saving lives and helping their communities rebuild.

I realize that crystal balls are in short supply, but, given the prevalence of today's more frequent and often-destructive storms, how do you foresee the demand for help from the CGF changing in the next five years? What about the next ten years?

We are on high alert during every hurricane season to be ready and responsive when Coast Guard members are in need. In the last several years, and we expect this demand to continue to grow - there have been other types of natural disasters in communities where Coast Guard members live and work.

We have seen mudslides and atmospheric storms in California, and wildfires in California and Oregon, that have directly impacted Coast Guard members and families.

So, the frequency of weather events may increase, and as that happens, we need to be ready to fill the need.

You're right - no crystal ball here, so I can't say precisely what the situation will be in ten years...but our program and funding processes are built for growth so we can best respond to the current and expected needs.

How would you describe the CGF's budgetary needs in 2013 compared to 2023?

Just like the demand for the Coast Guard has grown in the last ten years, the needs to support members has grown. We work closely with the Coast Guard to respond to emerging challenges, like the mental resiliency program with the Chaplain corps I mentioned earlier.

We also launched a pilot program four years ago on the West Coast to help Coast Guard members pay for their kids' summer camps. We're taking the program nationwide this year, so no matter where they live, Coast Guard families can apply for a summer camp grant.

Since the pandemic, we are even more focused on morale and wellness initiatives that can improve the quality of life for our Coast Guard members and their families.

Following up on the previous question, what's the post-pandemic fundraising atmosphere like, compared to a decade ago?

We have the most amazing community of supporters. We are so grateful to partner with our donors to create program support for Coast Guard members and families. We've learned that our donors are truly motivated to support the service and we are working extra hard to report back the impact their support has on members and families.

What can individual sailors do to help the CGF out? Also, what about organizations like yacht clubs or corporations?

We relaunched our website - coastguardfoundation.org - along with our new logo and brand, so I encourage you to visit the site and see how your support helps Coast Guard members and families.

You can also give us a call in the office, and we can connect you with a member of our team to explore how you or your yacht club or business can make the most impact.

Is there anything else that you'd like to tell us about the CGF, for the record?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you again and update you about our organization. We are so grateful to our supporters, we are so energized by the direction the Coast Guard is going in, and we are ready to expand and grow our support to the service in impactful and meaningful ways.

To learn more, navigate to: coastguardfoundation.org

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