Karen Kantor
January 3, 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 min.

Karen Kantor

Changemaker: Karen Kantor, Angels of America’s Fallen


A Supportive Safety Net For The Angels Of The Fallen

In the 1990s, Karen Kantor returned home from the military injured and as a single mother. She felt like she couldn’t survive without her supportive community, and saw with her own eyes how the help of this community enabled her son to thrive.

Fast forward to 2019, and Karen was introduced to Joe and Shelli Lewis, founders of Angels of America’s Fallen (AOAF), a non-profit organization designed with military and first responder families in mind. Karen immediately resonated with their mission to support these families, and wanted to get involved.

In October 2019, Karen began working with AOAF to support fundraising efforts and ultimately  help increase the capacity of families served.

Addressing The Gap

AOAF was founded to address the ever-present need of community and support for the children of fallen military personnel and first responders. Founder, retired Lieutenant Colonel Joe Lewis, noticed the short-fallings of how these families were treated.

“It’s long been the policy that military widow(er)s are only given 30 days to leave base housing,” Karen explained. “Their emotional and financial stress is compounded by a small or nonexistent support system on base, as they often move every two years and rarely have built up a circle of support.”

They also experience less job security, affecting their ability to build longevity in their field, and often become underemployed or even unemployed.

“This instability during an already difficult and emotional time deeply affects their children as well,” Karen said.

AOAF’s goal is to help these children become more engaged in healthy activities and to provide access to any therapeutic support they may need. This support is carried out every year until the child reaches 19 years old.

“Our core belief is that if we work with the child and help them become a stronger person, the family and community will become stronger as well,” Karen said.

Through AOAF, the children are given a conduit to engage in community, allowing them to build relationships and a strong support system for their future.

Increasing The Reach

Currently, AOAF is serving 300 children plus their caregivers, but there are over 500 on the waiting list, and that number is increasing with the inclusion of first responders, firefighters and police officers. To improve these numbers, Karen’s primary responsibility is to increase funding that will not take away from the services they are already providing to families.

“We are working on positioning AOAF as an attractive investment to medical foundations,” Karen said. “We’re developing messaging around how trauma informed care and peer mentoring can have a positive impact on individual mental health, resiliency and community success.”

Pivoting During COVID-19

It is apparent that the global COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new, social distant normal for everyone. However, Karen and AOAF have pushed through to further improve the community and life for their families. Nationally, AOAF supporters participated in their annual 5K, Run with the Angels.

Children who are being served by AOAF also get the benefit of having their own mentor through small business partnerships.

“These small businesses—art, music, and dance teachers, and sports coaches—support our kids as they discover and follow their passions,” Karen said. “This also provides additional support for our widows and gives single parents much needed breaks.”

Karen has helped to ensure the pandemic will not halt these relationships. Mentors are now engaging on a virtual level with the children, encouraging them to be more creative.

The military and first responder communities have also continued to flourish during this time—leading to several small businesses to pop up from their ranks.

“One mom has turned her passion for art into a business,” Karen recalls. “She’s been teaching art skills to other widows, children, and small businesses with her handcrafted art kits.”

Another success story: one of the AOAF children started teaching online hula lessons. “She’s been able to convert her passion into a resource that helps others,” Karen said. “She’s a nationally ranked hula dancer!”

During business closures, AOAF has supported the small businesses that have supported their families by promoting their businesses, encouraging purchasing gift cards, endorsing a “buy local” challenge and by hosting virtual meetings.

“It takes an entire community to support our families,” said Karen. “I’m proud that we’re able to give back to and support the businesses that support us during this challenging time.”

Through the ups and downs over the past several months Karen has become even more driven to expand Angels of America’s Fallen’s reach in the community.

“Having been there myself I know the immense value in having a support system when times are tough,” Karen said. “AOAF is changing—and in some cases saving—lives.”

Support Karen For Her 50th Birthday!

As an impactful Change Agent in the community, Karen has taken time during her COVID-19 quarantine to continue making a difference in the lives of others. Recently, Karen has run 300 miles in a virtual team-run across the US (totalling 3,100 miles) to raise money for Feeding America.

Instead of vacationing in Barbados for her 50th birthday, she will be running 50 miles for the Angels. Support Karen’s efforts by donating to her fundraiser today!

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