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New program will help veterans 'suit up' for job search

GRANITEVILLE — The Aiken Warrior Project and Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA are teaming up to make sure student military veterans will look spiffy while they are seeking work.

The two organizations announced the official launch of their Suit Up for Veterans initiative on Wednesday during a press conference at Aiken Technical College.

“Student veterans possess the work ethic, skills and education that many employers are looking for, but they may have some transitional needs that make it difficult for them to purchase professional attire for job interviews,” said Aiken Warrior Project education advocate Larry Millstead.

Here's how the Suit Up for Veterans effort will work: The Aiken Technical College Student Veterans Association will gather donations of all types of clothing in collection bins on the school's campus throughout the year and then give the items to Goodwill. For each container the group fills, Goodwill will donate five clothing vouchers through its Good Samaritan Program to the Aiken Warrior Project, which will give them to Aiken Technical College student veterans.

The veterans will be able to take the vouchers to any Goodwill location in the CSRA and select five free professional clothing items, such as sport coats, dress pants and ties.

In order to be able to receive the vouchers, student veterans will be required to demonstrate need, have a strong grade point average and complete Aiken Technical College's professionalism lecture series that is offered through the school's Student Development Division.

The idea that led to the creation of Suit Up for Veterans came from Steven Waller, president of the Aiken Technical College Student Veterans Association, and Joel Wightman, the association's vice president, Millstead said.

“They were looking for a way to assist other student veterans on campus that were in need of business and professional attire for job interviews, career fairs and other things of that nature,” Millstead said. “Instead of depending on people to donate suits, I thought about what could be done from a collaboration standpoint within the community to make sure that it happened. Then I talked to Jennifer Hart at Goodwill in Aiken about it.”

Because of those conversations, Suit Up for Veterans was born.

“This partnership will assist student veterans in their transition while the donations will help others in our community by providing materials that fuel Goodwill's job-training and career-development services,” said Hart, who is Goodwill's Aiken community director.

For more information about the Suit Up for Veterans program, call Millstead at 803-508-7507 or email lmillstead.awp@gmail.com.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.

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