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WASHINGTON — For more than a decade, the GI Go Fund has helped veterans find their next job or supported their entrepreneurial spirit. On Wednesday it was awarded a $50,000 grant from the 2020 Newman’s Own Award to continue its work — especially essential as the pandemic impacts the job market.

“For GI Go Fund to be one of the groups that's received it is a complete honor to us. ... And it's something that we're very, very proud of,” said Jack Fanous, a co-founder of GI Go Fund, before the official announcement Wednesday.

The Newman’s Own Award is given annually in honor of actor Paul Newman, a Navy veteran who served in the Pacific in World War II. He later created Newman’s Own, a food line that directs its profits toward charities. Newman died in 2008.

Newman’s Own has awarded more than $2.1 million to 185 nonprofits since it began in 1999. This year more than 330 entries were submitted for the award and six judges evaluated each organization’s “creativity, innovation and impact to the respective communities,” according to the news release. The top organization receives $50,000 and five others receive $30,000 each, for a total of $200,000 to support veteran groups.

The top honor of $50,000 was awarded to GI Go Fund’s Veterans Center for Job Training and Entrepreneurship. The nonprofits that each received $30,000 are Warrior Wellness Solutions, Veterans Community Project, Second Chance Cars Inc., Military Spouse Advocacy Network and the Invictus Games Foundation.

The Fisher House Foundation, which provides free housing for families of service members and veterans receiving treatment at military and Veterans Affairs medical centers, sees its partnership with the award as an extension of its own mission, according to Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of the foundation.

“We're really helping foundations achieve missions that might go unseen from bigger foundations with wider missions. And so it's important because ultimately they're all going to benefit either the military or veterans or their family,” Fisher said.

Also partnering on the award is Military Times, a news organization.

Brothers Jack and James Fanous started GI Go Fund in 2006 with co-founder Alex Manis in honor of their friend 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, who died in an explosion in Iraq in 2004. The nonprofit has evolved from taking veterans to sports games to working with the city of Newark, N.J., in 2008 to help veterans find jobs to opening a job training center and entrepreneurial incubator space in 2018 for veterans in the New York and New Jersey region.

The center connects veterans with job training, employers, lawyers and accountants to help them navigate the workforce or start a business. When the pandemic hit, many of those veterans pivoted to help produce personal protective equipment for New York City, Jack Fanous said.

“It really is a testament to the veteran spirit and I really would love for people to take even a deeper dive. It's fantastic GI Go gets an award for this, but truthfully the awards should be handed out in droves to the veteran entrepreneurs that are in there,” he said.

Their resources are also available online for service members, veterans and spouses. During the coronavirus pandemic, the group has seen a 500% increase in veterans’ requests, Fanous said.

“We spent the last seven years developing online tools, online workforce development so that we can be prepared for the modern veteran workforce. And [the pandemic] obviously accelerated that exceptionally,” he said.

The award money will go toward providing more job training and resources for veterans and supporting technology innovations to improve how veterans enter the workforce, especially remotely.

“That's really what we want to do ... make sure that we're bringing in innovation to the veteran space,” he said. Twitter: @caitlinmkenney


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