Air Force Veteran Who Has Spent Her Career Serving Others Invited by Duckworth to State of the Union Address

Loretta Coleman, who served in the Armed Forces for 10 years before dedicating her career to the less fortunate, now manages one of the nation’s only Veteran-focused food pantries


Highlighting the importance and value of volunteer work and civilian national service, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) today invited Loretta Coleman, an Air Force Veteran, AmeriCorps member and manager of the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry, to be her guest at President Obama’s final State of the Union Address next week. Ms. Coleman joined the military because of what she describes as her “servant’s heart” and believes in the importance of serving one’s country as well as being part of something bigger than oneself, and as a civilian she has continued serving her fellow Illinoisans in several capacities. Duckworth has made community service a hallmark of her public life, often volunteering her time throughout Eighth District communities, and is a champion in Congress for national service.

“Among America’s best qualities—one that has helped our nation become a global superpower—is our unwavering commitment to helping others,” said Congresswoman Duckworth. “Throughout my life, I’ve seen the impact selflessness and service can have on our communities and those around us. I have tried my best to give back what I can to my nation that has given me so much. When I imagine what our world might look like if we each showed the same dedication to serving others as Loretta Coleman has, it gives me hope for our future. Her story is a powerful reminder that serving one’s country is not limited to those in uniform, and I commend her for continuing to serve our nation as a civilian with AmeriCorps.  I look forward to hosting Loretta as my guest at President Obama’s final State of the Union Address next week.”

In 2013, Congresswoman Duckworth spoke at the launch of Jesse Brown VA Medical Center’s food pantry, which Chicago-native Loretta Coleman, 51, now manages as a full-time AmeriCorps member following her 10-year career in the Armed Forces. At the food pantry—the first food pantry for Veterans at a VA facility in Illinois and one of the only VA pantries in the country—Coleman recruits volunteers, oversees food orders and provides meals to more than 150 Veterans each week.

Ms. Coleman served for six years in the U.S. Army Reserve and four years active duty in the Air Force as an aircraft fuel systems mechanic.  After serving in the Air Force, she worked at several organizations, including Vets4Vets, an organization that facilitates Veteran to Veteran peer support.  When she leaves AmeriCorps, she plans to work as a certified peer specialist to assist Veterans in transition back to civilian life.

“I am immensely thankful to be the guest of Congresswoman Duckworth at the State of the Union address,” said Ms. Coleman.“It has been both an honor and a privilege to not only serve as a member of the military, but to continue serving my community through AmeriCorps. It is a great opportunity to be able to help meet the needs of my fellow Veterans and take on the challenge of the AmeriCorps pledge to ‘get things done for America.’”

The innovative Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry addresses a critical community need: providing nutritious food to the men and women who have fought to defend our country. In Cook County alone, there are more than 16,000 Veterans living below the poverty line. The pantry is a partnership between the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the VA and AmeriCorps. Roughly 18% of the households served by the Food Depository’s network include a current or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“The Greater Chicago Food Depository is proud that AmeriCorps member Loretta Coleman will be a guest of Congresswoman Duckworth at the State of the Union,”said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “Loretta leads our weekly food pantry distribution at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center – serving hundreds of struggling Veterans and their families each month. She embodies the American value of service by ensuring that her fellow Veterans have the food they need for health and opportunity.”

Congresswoman Duckworth works hard to make the Eighth District a better place through community service and volunteering. In 2015, Congresswoman Duckworth joined her neighbors in giving back to the community several times, including donating her time in Schaumburg on New Year’s Eve to help feed starving children abroad. In advance of Thanksgiving, the Congresswoman also helped distribute turkey dinners to less fortunate families at Schaumburg’s Church of the Holy Spirit Food Pantry. The food pantry is managed by LaVerne Horgan, a long-time church volunteer that Congresswoman Duckworth hosted as her guest for His Holiness Pope Francis’ historic Joint Address to Congress.