In February 2011, Goodwill of North Georgia (Atlanta) launched its Vet Success program, designed to reach veterans who have “fallen through the cracks.” Many veterans have documented disabilities but are waiting for their benefits to be approved.
Vet Success helps in a variety of ways, such as assisting with the benefit enrollment process, providing job training, matching veterans with the right career paths for them, and offering support services to veterans with disabilities. Since the program’s inception, it has served 110 veterans and referred 24 to state vocational rehabilitation services.
“There are a lot of vets out there who are really in need,” says Carl Walker, a Vietnam veteran with a disability and the program’s outreach coordinator. “It’s a real opportunity for me to reach out to other vets.”
The Atlanta Goodwill® relies on its community partners to fully meet the needs of veterans. While Goodwill’s expertise is employment services, other local organizations, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, provide health care, housing assistance and more. Each week, the Goodwill hosts a roundtable, during which veterans can learn about available services.
According to Jonathan Wilson, employment initiatives manager for Goodwill of North Georgia, one especially strong partnership involves the local state vocational rehabilitation office. When an individual schedules an appointment, it may take six months to see a counselor. However, when the Vet Success program refers a participant, that person is typically seen within 30 to 45 days.
“We want to show people there’s hope and we’re here to help,” says Rashida Powell, the Goodwill’s communications specialist.
Vietnam veteran Roderick Sexton currently participates in the Vet Success program. He met Walker at a job fair for veterans. The two exchanged information, and Walker called Sexton and invited him to a roundtable event. He’s working his way toward a warehousing career through the Goodwill’s hands-on training.
“I was impressed with the professionalism and how they really take veterans’ interests to heart,” Sexton says. “It’s their actions, not just rhetoric. I’m grateful for the program and how it’s changed my life.”