On May 17, Goodwill® professionals attending the 2014 Spring Conference gathered to celebrate the organization’s commitment to serving veterans and recognize two member agencies as Vested in Veterans Centers of Excellence—Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire (Savannah, GA) and Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region (Tacoma, WA).
Theresa Gerton, deputy secretary for policy at the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS) program, served as the keynote speaker at the lunch. She encouraged Goodwill agencies to continue their great work connecting veterans and their families to much needed employment and support services, emphasizing the growing need for credential building in this population.
Vested in Veterans Centers of Excellence
In 2013, Bank of America and Goodwill launched the Vested in Veterans initiative with Goodwill agencies in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio.
“GII’s partnership with the Bank of America Foundation is one of our great national partnerships that benefits local Goodwill agencies,” said GII Chief Operating Officer Steve Krotonsky. “It has advanced Goodwill’s ability and capacity to deliver high-quality, effective veteran services across the United States.“
This year, the two organizations joined together to recognize Goodwill’s best practices in veterans services by designating two agencies as Vested in Veterans Centers of Excellence.
“We received applications from many Goodwill members that had clearly made strides in their efforts to improve the lives of veterans and their families,” Krotonsky said. “This year’s awards recognize two Goodwill agencies that advanced their holistic veteran-centric programs.”
Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire
Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire began its dedicated veteran services program in 2010 with Operation Open Doors, serving homeless veterans in Savannah and the surrounding areas. The agency quickly realized other veterans within their community could benefit from their services.
Today, the Savannah Goodwill operates 10 job connection centers with professionals who assist veterans with an array of services and supports. All veterans are assigned a peer counselor who serves as a navigator supporting the efforts of the veterans to address immediate needs such as housing, benefits verifications and medical concerns.
These efforts are bolstered by the agency’s many community partnerships, including the Veterans Administration, Savannah-Chatham County Homeless Authority, Step-Up-Savannah Workforce Action Team’s Apprenticeship Program, and local colleges and universities.
Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region
Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region launched its veterans services in 2012 with the Walmart Foundation-funded Operation: GoodJobs. Since then, the Tacoma Goodwill has provided services for more than 450 veterans and military families.
Its success has been due in part to its robust community partnerships with more than 75 organizations. These provide job opportunities, referrals to services and credentialing.
The agency has expanded its veteran services to include additional job training opportunities through a partnership with Boeing, new financial wellness opportunities through Wells Fargo, and veteran mentoring services in conjunction with Wounded Warriors, among many others.