By Tom Piazze

Statistics tell us that more than 234,000 new Veterans will soon be looking for work after their discharge. There are many agencies and organizations that address Veterans’ issues: The Department of Defense (DOD), Veterans Affairs (VA), Health and Human Resources (HHS), and the US Department of Labor have excellent initiatives in place to address a variety of problems facing Veterans. Unfortunately, these services are generally discreet, uncoordinated and represent a very specific niche and are currently being stretched thin with the influx of returning Veterans.

Goodwill Industries was one of the first organizations to anticipate and respond to the multitude of challenges faced by returning Veterans and their families. In doing so, Goodwill Manasota has developed a comprehensive and localized employment and case management program that enables partnerships with federal, state and community resources and service providers. From the viewpoint of Goodwill Manasota, hiring Veterans is not charity; it is an investment in our community. Millions of dollars are spent to train the amazing men and women of our Armed Forces and Goodwill Manasota feels that by not reemploying or assisting these heroes, our communities are failing them during the most critical portion of their transition to civilian life.

Bob Rosinsky, President and CEO, Goodwill Manasota, and Christopher Davis, Director of Veterans Services, joined us at the July Luncheon to present information on The American Veterans and Their Families Initiative and to extend an invitation to MOAS members to volunteer their unique skill sets in support of this highly effective program.

The Initiative focuses on job training, placement and employment services for American Veterans, their spouses and families. However, in addition to providing Veterans with the behavioral and employment training required to transition into the civilian work force, the program also offers Veterans and the families’ comprehensive case management and referral services. Case managers from Goodwill Manasota, many of which are Veterans themselves, assist Veterans and their families’ address barriers to employment, disabilities and mental health issues to maximize vocational opportunities for Veterans.

Opportunities exist for MOAS volunteers to help Veterans move into the civilian workforce and address several barriers to self-sufficiency. The single most requested service is through the Goodwill Manasota’s Job Connection Services. The Job Connection service matches the right employer and job opportunity with the right Veteran candidate; the one who possesses the best mix of technical and leadership skills for the position. A variety of other opportunities exist for MOAS volunteers as well. The most critical needs are legal representation, especially in the area of family legal services; financial planning, from help preparing household budgets to providing advice to individuals interested in pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors and peer advisors for either Veterans or their spouses who are struggling with the impact of PTSD and transitional stress.

For more information about how you can lend a hand, please contact either Tom Piazze at tepiazze@gmail.comor (941) 761-1278, or Christopher Davis at christopher.davis@gimi.orgor (941) 840-4503.