Friends of the Soldiers Home is a 501 (c)(3) organization serving to strengthen the bond between the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington and the surrounding community. Through service, education and engagement, Friends of the Soldiers Home connects citizens and veterans in a relationship that recognizes the sacrifice of military service and enhances quality of life for veteran and citizen alike.
In November 2011, the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington and surrounding community held a meeting about ending years of neglect in relating to one another.
What blossomed was Friends of the Soldiers Home.
Starting with a Jingo volunteer night in December 2011, Friends went on to partner with the Home to conduct more than 300 volunteer events through the end of 2018. In 2017 alone, 300 people collectively gave 1,500 hours of volunteer time at 51 events.
Regular events include monthly Jingo, Happy Hour, Saloon Night With Friends and Bowling With Friends. Each spring, the Home and Friends pairs community volunteers with veteran residents to tend vegetable plots together in the Friends Garden Project.
Friends also holds annual community celebrations with the Home, including Spring Fling, which occurs the first Saturday in May, July 4 Fireworks, and Fall Fun Fest, which happens on the first Sunday in October. In December, the Friends and Home residents gather together for the annual holiday tree lighting. Thousands of people from the community attended these events to better connect the residents and historic campus with the surrounding nation’s capital.
See the “volunteer opportunities” and “events” section of this website to learn more details about 2019 activities.
To volunteer with the Friends, write Lori Lincoln at volunteerfriendsofsoldiers (at) gmail (dot) com. All other inquiries should go to John Hughes, chairman of Friends of the Soldiers Home, at friendsofsoldiers (at) gmail (dot) com. Friends is also at Facebook/friendsofsoldiers and Twitter/@friendssoldiers.
Friends of the Soldiers Home Board of Directors:
Louis Avenilla works as a manager with the U.S. Census Bureau. He started volunteering with Friends of the Soldiers Home in 2015. Originally from Los Angeles, Lou completed a B.A. in History from UCLA. An avid student of history, he grew up hearing stories from his parents about the occupation and eventual liberation of the Philippines during WWII. His mother even remembers seeing Gen. MacArthur in Leyte on his return to the islands. His father is a veteran of the Philippine Air Force. With a strong belief in giving back to the community, Louis has volunteered in community gardening, literacy campaigns and taught oversees as a Peace Corps volunteer. He states, “Meeting the men and women of the Soldiers Home has been such a privilege and heightens my appreciation.” A resident of Prince George’s County, Lou enjoys cycling, traveling, golf and tinkering with his car when the engine light comes on.
Elizabeth A. Cocke, Ph.D.is vice president of Friends of the Soldiers Home. She joined in 2013 as a volunteer and later that year began managing Happy Hour for the Friends. She joined the Board in 2014. Liz currently serves as the Division Director at the Office Policy Development and Research, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Liz shares this about why she volunteers with the Friends: “My father was career military but after World War II and graduate work, was posted in Washington,D.C. for the remainder of his career. My siblings and I were all born at Walter Reed; my father was married in the Walter Reed chapel twice; my siblings and I were all baptized in the Walter Reed chapel, and my father died at Walter Reed. This and many other experiences with the military establishment gives me a large number of opportunities for conversation with retired members of the armed services.”
Ronnie Edwards is a commissioner on the ANC 5A Board in Washington and has served as a community activist in various capacities since the early 1980s. He served approximately eight years in the U.S. Army, including an assignment in the 8th Infantry Division in Baumholder, Germany. Following separation from military service in 1979, he was hired by the U.S. Justice Department as an investigator in the Civil Rights Division and went on to work in civic associations and the city government in Washington. In 2013, he was appointed as the Deputy Director of the city’s Department of Small and Local Business Development and was reappointed in 2014. Edwards lives in Washington with his wife, Virginia, and has four children.
Kerry Hamblin is the secretary for the Friends of the Soldiers Home. She is a high school counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. A native of the area, she graduated from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, earned her BA at the University of Virginia and taught high school science with the Teach for America program in San Jose, California. She went back to school to get her MEd in School Counseling at the University of Florida. Kerry has been a volunteer with the Friends of the Soldiers Home since 2014 and coordinated the popular Saloon Night events. Kerry lives with her husband Matt and daughter Claire across the street from the Soldiers Home. She loves being a stone’s throw from the big FOSH events like the Spring Fling and Fourth of July celebration.
John Hughes is co-founder and chairman of Friends of the Soldiers Home. He works an an editor for the breaking news desk at Bloomberg News in Washington. A native of Maplewood, Minn., he received a B.S. in political science at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and an M.S.J. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He is former National Press Club president and board member and vice chairman of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Parish Finance Council. He lives in Washington with his wife, Ellen, and teen-age children, Isabelle and Teddy.
Timothy Jones is founding board member with Friends of the Soldiers Home, is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Ward 4C-08. He was born in St. Louis, the son of a U.S. Army lieutenant who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. He grew up on military bases in the U.S. and Europe and graduated from Howard University with a B.A. in economics. He has served as president of the Howard University School of Business Alumni Association and treasurer of the Howard Theatre Preservation Project Board. He lives in Washington, where he is a licensed real estate broker and dealer in new and used books.
Lauren Kessler is a native Washingtonian who is finishing her MBA at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. She studied photography and graphic design at the Parsons School of Design and taught art in the palliative care unit of the VA Hospital on Irving Street in Washington. She used to live in Istanbul and is an avid cook and adventurer. Prior to starting at UMD (go Terps!), she worked extensively in digital marketing and art direction. She currently lives in NoMa with her dog named Monkey and is thrilled to be part of the Soldiers Home community.
Steve Leisge is the treasurer for the Friends of the Soldiers Home. He grew up in Denver, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MBA from Auburn University. He was commissioned in the Air Force and spent the next twenty years flying F-4 fighter aircraft in various locations in the U.S., England and Thailand, from where he completed two combat tours over seven years. He finished his career with two tours in the Pentagon, serving on the Air Staff and in the Plans directorate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Currently, he represents an Israeli company marketing and servicing X-ray inspection systems to/for U.S. police departments, military and federal agencies. Steve has two daughters and two grandchildren. He lives in Crystal City, Virginia.
Kimberly Moorehead works at AARP Services, which helps transform the marketplace to improve peoples lives as they age. A native of Texas, Kimberly received her BS at University of Virginia and MBA at the University of Michigan. Kimberly moved to Petworth neighborhood of Washington four years ago and has been active in the community as a previous board member of the Petworth Community Market.
Nichole Skoyles is an attorney at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. She is originally from Hawaii, but moved to Washington to attend school. When she and her husband moved in across the street from the Armed Forces Retirement Home, they wanted to know more about their neighbors and began volunteering with the FOSH gardening program and community festivals in 2014. Now with a child and one more on the way, she believes that this is a wonderful community and joined the FOSH Board to help foster relationships between the Solders Home and all of its neighbors.
Susan Bryhan is the current Administrator of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington. She previously was the Wellness Center Manager at the Home. She grew up in York County, Pa., and earned a BS in Finance at the Pennsylvania State University and MBA and Master in Educational Administration degrees at Old Dominion University. She served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years as a healthcare administrator and retired as a Captain (O6). She commanded Naval Hospital Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Wash. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) and she loves working at the Armed Forces Retirement Home as a way to continue serving veterans.
Billy White has been a resident of the Armed Forces Retirement Home since 2006 and leads the Home’s Resident Advisory Council at the Home. He was born in North Carolina and joined the U.S. Navy when he received a draft notice after high school. His duties included working on a ship that transported 2,000 troops to Vietnam, serving in a construction battalion that required him to enter enemy territory and working in data processing where he helped prepare the payroll for the entire seventh fleet. After the service, Billy took computer engineering training and got his first job working for ITT, where he stayed for ten years as a computer specialist. Billy later began working for himself in the field of investment marketing, mortgage refinancing and insurance with Primerica Financial Services. Among the many roles he fills at the Home, he is known for his work as a DJ for at events for the Home, including Friends of the Soldiers Home festivals.