This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author’s own.
Through its veterans services program, nonprofit offers services to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life and succeed on the job
Sharon Kunkel , Community Contributor
This month, as National Hire a Veteran Day (July 25) approaches, Goodwill Manasota affirms its commitment to helping veterans reintegrate into society and overcome barriers to career and life success. Through its American Veterans and Their Families Program, area veterans receive free career services and are connected with employers – especially veteran-friendly employers – who understand the value they will bring to their companies.
Veterans face many hurdles upon their transition from military service back into the civilian labor market. They may have lower rates of higher education and often face difficulties in translating their military experience to domestic workplaces. Many are also struggling with health challenges and injuries suffered during their service as well as mental health conditions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Goodwill's American Veterans and Their Families Program was created in 2013 to help veterans reintegrate into their families, communities and jobs. The program – which is staffed by veterans – provides comprehensive case management and vocational services, networking opportunities, and assistance in navigating the wide array of available social service programs. An important focus of Goodwill's veterans program is to provide career development and upskilling opportunities for veterans, in order for them to be able to bolster their job prospects and earn more money.
In 2021, Goodwill Manasota served 381 veterans. Of that number, 46 came for employment services and 31 were placed into jobs. Also, 111 veterans participated in the Lutz Buddy Up program, which targets veteran mental health by providing opportunities for veterans to come together for dinner and conversation with peers who understand what they have been through.
Additionally, Goodwill Manasota is a veteran-friendly employer: in 2021, there were 71 veteran team members on its payroll.
Todd Hughes, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the manager of Goodwill's veterans services program, says the challenges that veterans face are numerous and differ for everyone in some way. While he notes that the majority who complete their service or retire go on to live productive and happy lives, others may struggle with the transition.
"Some veterans strap on their civilian helmet and are able to charge headfirst into something new successfully," he says. "However, due to the trauma of being in battle as well as injuries suffered while deployed, some turn to the bottle or drugs and end up with a multitude of other problems, like homelessness or unemployment. These are the ones we are targeting with offerings such as career services and the Lutz Buddy Up program; however, we are always standing by to support all veterans and their families in our community in any way we can."
Thankfully, there are numerous employers in the area who are intentionally veteran-friendly in their hiring. Hughes notes that the veterans services office works with many local businesses that are purposeful in seeking veterans for open positions and that his team makes many successful referrals over the course of a year.
Ron Thomas is the operations manager of Ready Containment, a manufacturer based in Palmetto that builds spill containment products. An Air Force veteran himself, Thomas understands the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life and the workforce.
Thomas has hired seven veterans referred by Goodwill over the past two years; six of those are still with the company. He strongly encourages local employers to look at veterans when considering workforce recruitment.
"You can expect a veteran to be on time, they will work as hard as they can, and they will stay until the job is done. You don’t have to ask. They also take responsibility seriously and know how to make decisions," Thomas said. "If someone is seeking dedicated, loyal employees, hiring veterans is the way to go."
For more information about Goodwill's American Veterans and Their Families program, call (941) 355-2721 or visit experiencegoodwill.org.
About Goodwill Manasota Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.
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