Frank Salato, founding president of the United Relief Foundation (URF), grew up in a close-knit family – very close-knit. He chuckles as he describes his childhood home: “My grandparents were in the basement, my uncle was on the first floor, my aunt was on the second floor and my dad – the youngest – had the third floor.” Frank’s father owned the Cubby Bear Lounge back when the Bears used to play at Wrigley field, and it was not uncommon to see the likes of Ernie Banks and Ron Santo hanging out at the community spot.
Frank married at 21 and opened Frankie’s Pizzeria in Ingleside. After a few years in the restaurant business, Frank discovered he had a knack for marketing and started a marketing communications firm which evolved into The Webheads, Inc., a web design and development company, in 2000.
In August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Frank responded like many people – he looked for a way to help. He went on to coordinate Katrina disaster relief efforts and was among the first to deliver supplies to people on the ground. He recalls, “I felt I could do more than write a check to the Red Cross, so I started organizing people.”
Inspired by those efforts, Frank founded the United Relief Foundation a 501(c)(3) humanitarian aid organization in February 2006, with the aim of connecting people who want to do good with people who are in need. In addition to disaster relief, URF coordinated local food and clothing drives. Moved by his niece’s Army boot camp graduation ceremony, Frank decided to shift from disaster relief and local efforts to focusing his Foundation efforts solely on veterans. This year, URF introduced Standing Tall for Veterans in Need as an umbrella initiative for three Lifeline programs: Care, Comfort, Compassion; Home Sweet Home; and Healing for Heroes.
In September, Frank and a URF’s Boots on the Ground project led a team of volunteers from Invenergy in making improvements to Inner Voice’s Eddie Beard Veterans’ House. In October, URF’s Healing for Heroes Holistic-Horticultural Program worked with residents to build raised and elevated garden beds. In November, URF will host, with their Hope and Help Partner Wellness Rising Coalition, a special hearty and healthy meal for EBVH residents in honor of Veterans Day. According to Frank, “the Holistic-Horticultural program goal is to provide a pathway and tools to veterans to get healthy in mind, body, and spirit and the Eddie Beard Vet House will be the Foundation’s veterans transitional housing environment model.”
“Eddie Beard Vet House’s engaged staff and supportive environment are consummate examples of having the best interest of the veterans you’re serving at heart.” says Frank. “However, it was Inner Voice’s CEO, Jackie Edens, whose enthusiasm and dedication convinced me to commit my Foundation to a long-term, compounding-the-good relationship with the organization.”