U.S. Navy Veteran Reports for Duty as First Executive Director of Illinois Joining Forces

Following an extensive selection process the Illinois Joining Forces (IJF) Board of Directors announced today the selection of U.S. Navy veteran Kenneth S. Barber as the first Executive Director.  Barber will report for duty today and assumes day-to-day operational leadership of the IJF, which is a statewide, public-private network of military and veteran serving organizations that collaborate in person and online to help service members, veterans, and their families navigate the “sea of goodwill.”

“We are delighted to have Ken Barber stepping up to the IJF Executive Director position,” said Tom Miller Chair, IJF Board of Directors.  “While we had an impressive field of candidates to choose from, Ken is an excellent selection.  As a combat veteran with experience in corporate, non-profit, entrepreneurial, civic, and academic settings, his wide range of experience, plus proven leadership make him a great choice.  We are looking forward to him helping to make IJF even better through engaging and supporting even more of Illinois military personnel, veterans, and their families.”

Prior to joining IJF, Barber has over 15 years’ experience as an accomplished business owner, entrepreneur, and executive manager.  He has been the founder or partner in several successful small businesses ventures in manufacturing, retail food and restaurant, real estate development, and wellness and health care.  Most recently, he was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Oxyall Inc., a Chicago-based start-up manufacturer and distributor of products in the Health and Wellness industry.

Before embarking on his entrepreneurial ventures, Ken was a manager in the private sector in banking and finance.  He held executive management positions in Information Security, Consumer Lending, Community Affairs, and eCommerce for HSBC N.A.  Similarly, he held management positions in Capital planning, Operating Budgets and Forecasting, and Airport Operations for United Airlines.

Barber currently serves as Treasurer for the Board of Trustees of Roycemore School, Evanston, and is the past Treasurer of the Highland Park Housing Commission. In the non-profit sector, he was director of Reach for Tomorrow, Inc., an organization whose goal was to promote disenfranchised youth interest and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs to through annual trips to the Army, Navy, and Air Force service academies.

A Chicago native, Ken holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from the U.S. Naval Academy and a Master in Business Administration from DePaul University.  He is also a decorated Gulf War (Desert Shield / Desert Storm) veteran, with more than eight years of service as a naval officer. While in the Navy he served on the two warships, the USS Fox (CG-33) and USS Boxer (LHD-4), and managed communications technicians and weapons specialists as a division chief.  He also served for three years as the Regional Director – Midwest Office of Admissions, U.S. Naval Academy, where he conducted outreach to high schools, alumni, and groups to increase enrollment at the service academy. He left active duty in September, 1999 as a Lieutenant Commander.  His interests include triathlons, basketball, and cooking. He is a member of the National Association of Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, Inc.          


The Illinois Joining Forces mission is to establish, maintain and nurture a state-wide public and private organizational network that will identify, collaborate, and marshal available resources and services in order to create efficient access and delivery of these programs to Illinois’ military and veteran communities.

Vision: IJF’s guiding principles since inception are: to activate and increase the collaboration and communication amongst stakeholders that will close the gap of available resources to service members, veterans and their families; develop solution-based working groups to overcome obstacles in the delivery of quality services; and provide common-sense and real-time solutions to policy makers that improve programs and targeting efficiencies and redundancies in the delivery of services and programs.

Goals: IJF’s goal is to increase awareness and connectivity among member organizations so that they and those they serve, can better navigate the system of support. IJF member organizations sign a Memorandum of Understanding with IDVA and IDMA, agreeing to collaborate in up to three (3) of nine (9) Working Groups and assist our target service population. Working groups meet at least quarterly, and many have monthly calls and events. Through this collaboration, the experts in each Working Group, can create efficiencies, synergy and resourcing for new programming, identify service gaps, and work together to create not only a more approachable network of support, but an enhanced and informed collection of service providers that can expand their impact.

The IJF website is a web-based platform that brings government agencies, veteran service organizations, and service providers from across Illinois together in an unparalleled attempt to better communicate and coordinate services. It also provides service members, veterans, and their families, direct access to the organizations that might have the resources they need to successfully navigate civilian life. The website content is member-driven, with IJF member organizations regularly updating their event postings, program details, service descriptions, hours of operation, and locations.

History: IJF was established just days before Veterans Day in November 2012, when more than 250 veterans service leaders, state officials and service providers met at the Union League Club of Chicago to launch IJF as a new statewide public-private partnership to improve support for service members, veterans, and their families (SMVF). It modeled after the national Joining Forces initiative and sought to increase collaboration and communication among non-profits and public agencies serving SMVF at the local, state and federal levels. Through IJF, participating organizations agreed to work together to address gaps in services in job training and placement, healthcare, education and housing, actively refer veterans and service members in need of assistance, and offer better navigation of available resources and service to the public.

Within the state government, IJF was established by an inter-governmental agency agreement between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs (IDMA), to support and nurture this statewide, public-private network of veteran- and military-serving organizations working together to improve services to Illinois’ military and veteran communities.  In August 2014 IJF received authorization from the State of Illinois to become a non-profit organization [(501(c)(3)], while retaining support of both the IDVA and the IDMA.