Serv­ing those who have served oth­ers

EDC hosts first Veter­ans Day Jobs and Re­source Fair

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES [email protected]­

The Prince Ge­orge’s County Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (EDC), in part­ner­ship with the Mary­land De­part­ment of La­bor, Li­cens­ing and Reg­u­la­tion (DLLR), hosted its first Veter­ans Day Jobs and Re­source Fair Mon­day to pro­vide job op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­sources for veter­ans and their spouses seek­ing em­ploy­ment or ca­reer growth.

The free event, held at the EDC’s head­quar­ters in Largo, fea­tured about 20 em­ploy­ers and more than 200 veter­ans who in­ter­viewed for job open­ings in hospi­tal­ity, trans­porta­tion, con­struc­tion, security, health­care and man­u­fac­tur­ing. The con­cept be­hind the fair was to ad­dress the is­sue of un­em­ploy­ment within the vet­eran com­mu­nity and kick off the cor­po­ra­tion’s Op­er­a­tion 500 ini­tia­tive, which is geared to­ward se­cur­ing high wage jobs for 500 veter­ans over the next six months, ac­cord­ing to an EDC press re­lease.

“We’ve got 2,700 veter­ans in our county who are un­em­ployed. We’re talk­ing about veter­ans that have just served and come back from Afghanistan and Iraq where they’ve [dodged] bul­lets and put them­selves out [in dan­ger] all for us,” said EDC Pres­i­dent and CEO Jim Cole­man. “It’s time for us to step up and make sure that they have what they need and good jobs so that they are sus­tain­able and can take good care

of their fam­i­lies.”

Through the cor­po­ra­tion’s part­ner­ship with agen­cies in­clud­ing DLLR, Mary­land De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs and U.S. Vets, EDC Work­force Ser­vices Act­ing Di­rec­tor Walter Sim­mons said the Op­er­a­tion 500 ini­tia­tive not only changes the lives of un­em­ployed veter­ans, but can also as­sist tran­si­tion­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel as they get ready to sep­a­rate from the armed forces. The EDC is grate­ful to be in a po­si­tion to serve those who have pre­served free­dom for oth­ers, he said.

“We’re one of the largest coun­ties in Mary­land that has un­em­ployed veter­ans and the State of Mary­land it­self is one of the top-rank­ing states in the coun­try for vet­eran un­em­ploy­ment,” Sim­mons said. “What we want to do is at­tack it lo­cally and start bridg­ing that ser­vice con­nec­tion. … We want to serve those who’ve served us.”

Sta­tis­tics have found that veter­ans are of­ten un­aware of the sup­port ser­vices avail­able for them. In ad­di­tion, many em­ploy­ers are also un­aware of the avail­able sup­port ser­vice they can take ad­van­tage of for hir­ing veter­ans. The EDC’s jobs and re­source fair pro­vides a sig­nif­i­cant plat­form to gen­er­ate aware­ness and pro­vide train­ing or em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for veter­ans, many of whom have trans­ferrable skills, ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease.

As the na­tion’s largest non­profit provider of com­pre­hen­sive ser­vices to home­less and at-risk veter­ans, U.S. Vets touches the lives of thou­sands of veter­ans and their fam­i­lies in 20 res­i­den­tial sites and nine ser­vice cen­ters in 13 cities across five states. Es­ti­mates from the U.S. De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs have shown a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in home­less­ness among veter­ans. While this re­duc­tion is promis­ing, the needs of veter­ans strug­gling with home­less­ness, un­em­ploy­ment and other bar­ri­ers to rein­te­gra­tion still ex­ist, the U.S. Vets web- site noted.

“We’re proud as we’re the only lo­ca­tion on the East Coast that’s a part of the U.S. Vets’ foot­print,” said Ray­mond O’Phar­row, a work­force coordinator who works through­out Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Mary­land and Vir­ginia. “We want to share be­cause we be­lieve in help­ing ev­ery vet­eran have a job and a roof over their head. I en­joy this work. I have an abil­ity to bring em­ploy­ers and re­sources to the fore­front and help peo­ple in need. … It’s mu­tual — more veter­ans will be­come em­ployed and our or­ga­ni­za­tion will con­tinue to be rel­e­vant through­out the re­gion.”

When it comes to help­ing ev­ery vet­eran and bring­ing re­sources to the fore­front, the Mary­land De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs (MDVA) was cre­ated by the state leg­is­la­ture in 1999 as an ex­ec­u­tive agency with the mis­sion of as­sist­ing veter­ans, ac­tive duty ser­vice mem­bers, their fam­i­lies and de­pen­dents in se­cur­ing ben­e­fits earned through mil­i­tary ser­vice. MDVA of­fers five pro­grams which in­clude the ser­vice and ben­e­fits pro­gram, the Char­lotte Hall Veter­ans Home, the Ceme­tery and Memo­rial pro­gram, the outreach and ad­vo­cacy pro­gram and the Mary­land Veter­ans Trust, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site.

The outreach and ad­vo­cacy pro­gram’s mis­sion is to de­velop in­no­va­tive ways to seek out and in­form Mary­land’s veter­ans about ben­e­fits and ser­vices that are avail­able from fed­eral, state and lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as so­licit feed­back from veter­ans re­gard­ing their re­quests and needs for ad­di­tional ser­vices. It works closely with mul­ti­ple lo­cal, state and fed­eral agen­cies and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions to co­or­di­nate ef­forts to lo­cate and in­form Mary­land’s veter­ans, as well as to ex­pand ben­e­fits and ser­vices avail­able.

“We’re al­ways look­ing for op- por­tu­ni­ties to get out into the com­mu­nity and en­gage with our veter­ans. We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that 435,000 veter­ans across the state are aware of th­ese ben­e­fits and en­ti­tle­ments that they have earned as a re­sult of their mil­i­tary ser­vice,” said Mary­land De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs Outreach and Ad­vo­cacy Di­rec­tor Dana Hen­drick­son. “The bot­tom line is it’s sim­ply good for busi­ness. Our veter­ans come to the work­place with in­sur­mount­able skill sets. … If any­thing, it means that they might be more re­silient than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion be­cause they’ve had to over­come chal­lenges.”

“Veter­ans have done a great ser­vice to our coun­try,” said for­mer Anne Arun­del County Board of Ap­peals mem­ber James E. Rzep­kowski, who is now as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of DLLR’s di­vi­sion of work­force devel­op­ment and adult learning. “One thing I was taught as a child by my fa­ther, who served in the Mary­land Na­tional Guard, is that you re­spect those who served and you go the ex­tra mile when they need help. This is about bring­ing em­ploy­ers and veter­ans to­gether to make sure that when veter­ans leave ser­vice, they can take the skills that made them so crit­i­cal in our armed ser­vices and put those skills to work here at home.”

For veter­ans like Eric Jan­i­fer who served in the U.S. Army for 14 years, he’s just glad to know that there’s peo­ple like him seek­ing sup­port ser­vices.

“It just lets me know that I’m not out here alone,” said Jan­i­fer, a Lan­dover res­i­dent. “We’ve done our ser­vice for the coun­try and … it’s time for us to come to­gether.”

The EDC will host a veter­ans jobs and re­source fair ev­ery month, ex­cept Novem­ber, for the next five months. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 301-583-4650.


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