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Goodwill initiative helps veterans overcome barriers

MANATEE, Florida -- When Bob Rosinsky, incoming president/CEO of Goodwill Manasota, saw the report on "60 Minutes" about the barriers veterans face in getting a job, he was disgusted.

It was just one more example of what he had seen over the years with struggling vets and what he had seen his father and uncle, a former POW, face years before.

Employers often don't want to take a chance on hiring a vet and veterans often don't have access to the services they need.

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Rosinsky, who has been with Goodwill for 40 years serving as chief operating officer and on the board, knew Goodwill was an expert in helping people with disabilities overcome their obstacles to finding gainful employment.

So he sat down and wrote a white paper, proposing a new initiative aimed at veterans.

As a result, this month Goodwill has initiated the American Veterans and Their Families Initiative to give veterans and their families the support they need as they face a tough job market and transitioning into the civilian world.

"We'll create a seamless case management system that will support each veteran's unique strengths and needs regarding housing, family, education and other challenges," he said.

"We will try to make sure veterans get the access to the services they need."

A key part of the program, which received $10,000 in seed money from Re/Max Alliance Group as well as a contribution of $25,000 from JP Morgan Chase, is hiring a veteran job coach. The coach, a veteran himself, will assist vets in dealing with job issues through employment preparation courses, educational and technical skills classes and one-on-one guidance, says Veronica Miller, vice president of Goodwill Foundation.

Personal issues theyface, like buying an automobile or a house or setting up a budget, also will

be addressed.

"We're developing alliances with community partners to maximize resources and avoid duplication of services in order to help transition our veterans into employment aligned with their vocational goals," Rosinsky said.

Through the Good Partner Coach program, veterans will be looked at holistically, Miller said.

"We'll put them on the right career path, help them develop the skill set they need," she said.

Neill Smithson is a veteran who was hired by Goodwill in 2010 after he left the Army as an enlisted man. The Bradenton native thought he had prepared himself to reenter the civilian workforce after he trained and then was licensed as a life insurance agent before living the service.

But he soon found the economy was a tough opponent.

"It just didn't work out," he said. After being unemployed for a while, he applied at Goodwill and was hired as an assistant team leader because of his extensive retail experience.

His favorite part of the job is helping others who are facing some of the hurdles he faced.

"Working with Goodwill, this is an organization that helps people," he said. "I have the opportunity to help people every day."

He has witnessed some of the issues his veteran friends have experienced and hopes he'll be able to be involved in the new program.

"I'm excited to see it get started. I want to be a part of it," Smithson said.

Peter Crowley, president of Re/Max Alliance Group, has been involved on Goodwill Manasota's board for years. When he heard about the new initiative, he thought it would be a good fit for his real estate company.

"Across the nation, Re/Max offices have made a commitment to hire and mentor military spouses, veterans and transitioning personnel," Crowley said. For the fifth year in a row, Re/Max has been honored as a top military spouse employer by Military Spouse magazine.

The program is a five-year commitment, something Rosinsky feels strongly about.

"Most of the programs out there want to help them and then get them off their caseloads as soon as possible," he said. "Our goal is to create a safety net to maximize their potential for success."

 

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