PenFed Foundation Awards Former U.S. Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice and Former VA Palo Alto Health Care System Director/CEO Lisa Freeman for their Work to Establish the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge

Posted October 09 2018
by Media Relations

PALO ALTO, Calif. Oct. 9 — The PenFed Foundation honored three leaders who played critical roles in building the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge, which has provided Veterans more than 115,000 free nights of healing at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center and saved Veterans’ families over $34.5 million in lodging costs. The awards dinner took place on October 8 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Silicon Valley.

“Our nation’s defenders deserve the best because they earned it. Here at the Palo Alto VA Center they receive the best treatments in the world from the best doctors in the world,” said James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union President and CEO. “We honor Lisa Freeman, the visionary who first raised the issue of Veterans sleeping in their cars or forgoing outpatient treatment due to the high cost of hotels close to the medical center. We honor the champions – Secretary George Shultz and Secretary Condoleezza Rice – for stepping up alongside the PenFed Foundation to raise the funds needed to build a home away from home where Veterans and their families can stay free of charge, with dignity and respect.”

The Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge is a 104-bed hotel that opened in 2014 to host Veterans undergoing extensive treatments and procedures at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

Former U.S. Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice were instrumental in helping to establish the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge to facilitate critical health care for our nation’s Veterans, after former VA Palo Alto Health Care System Director/CEO Lisa Freeman conceived the idea.

“Defenders are magnificent people, they protect our nation and our ideals all over the world and deserve the best medical care,” said Schultz. “Anyone that has been in the hospital knows that having your family there makes a gigantic difference – when you see them, you know everything is going to be ok. The Lee & Penny Defenders Lodge is a brilliant idea that works and helping Veterans is a great privilege – it’s part of the American spirit.”

“Back in 2008, I shared with the PenFed Foundation the need for a home for Veterans and their families to stay during outpatient treatments in Palo Alto, California. Historically, Veterans would drive many hours in awful traffic to get to an appointment. Some would even choose to not come or get treatment at all,” said Freeman. “We receive severely injured service members from all over the world and it’s critically important to provide them with world-class care. I want to thank all of the Veterans, their families and loved ones – it’s an honor and privilege to serve them. The debt we owe them is inmeasureable.”

The Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge is a public-private partnership between the VA and the PenFed Foundation. The PenFed Foundation raised $11 million in private donations to fund the construction of the lodge that includes 52 guest rooms, a dining room, library and private outdoor spaces, providing an experience much like a four-star hotel—at no cost to Veterans, their caregivers or families.

The Palo Alto VA is one of five Level One Polytrauma Centers in the nation and accommodates nearly one million outpatient visits per year. It offers specialized programs such as a Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, a Spinal Cord Injury Center, a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center and a Traumatic Brain Injury Center.

The awards dinner guests and press attended a tour of the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge with Schenck prior to the dinner and experienced the impact of the lodge first-hand as dozens of Veterans and their families checked in ahead of their treatments.

Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss and Assemblymember Marc Berman (California’s 24th District) attended the awards dinner as special guests. Attendees had the opportunity to meet some of the resilient Veterans and caregivers who are staying at the lodge. 

“I’m so impressed by the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge,” said Mayor Liz Kniss. “It’s a great example of an entrepreneurial public-private partnership. There is nothing more important than making Veterans feel comfortable and I’m so honored to know someone like Lisa who can have such an impact on the lives of so many Veterans."

A short video that tells the story of the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge can be found here. Visual assets for media, including b-roll video can be found here and a video acceptance speech from Secretary Rice can be found here (password:penfed). To learn more about the PenFed Foundation and see a short video about its mission, please visit the PenFed Foundation's website.

About PenFed Foundation

Founded in 2001, the PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. It provides service members, Veterans, their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to improve their lives through programs on financial education, credit-building, home ownership, and short-term assistance. Affiliated with PenFed Credit Union, the Foundation has the resources to effectively reach military communities across the nation, build strong partnerships, and engage a dedicated corps of volunteers in its mission. The credit union funds the Foundation’s personnel and most operational costs, demonstrating its strong commitment to the programs the Foundation provides. To learn more, visit

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