Operation Veterans THRIVE
Photo by Liam O'Connell
People are often unaware of the struggles veterans face integrating back to their civilian lives after serving. It’s not always a happy homecoming – veterans are often unable to establish stable footing and are left with few options. That’s where Easter Seals TriState aims to make a difference.
“We’re trying to remove barriers and get veterans connected to employment or anything else they need,” says Tim Duening, director of Veteran Services at Easter Seals TriState.
Their Operation Vets THRIVE (OVT) program bridges the gap between veterans in need and the resources to get them back to being successful members of society.
The program has a two-part approach. It begins with the Community OneSource call center. This provides veterans and military families with personalized assistance from Easter Seals TriState staff members. An individual can call to find help with problems that range from paying a utility bill to acquiring a wheelchair. The OneSource staff will take the information, search for solutions and then get back to the veteran with results.
Employment opportunities comprise the second aspect of the program. OneSource staff members are experts at providing the right skills and resources to help veterans find a good job. They host mock interviews, provide appropriate clothing, help fill out applications and write résumés – anything a veteran needs to land viable work.
“We’ve connected over 450 veterans to employment making approximately $17 an hour,” says Duening. He explains how one particular veteran called OneSource on a Friday and said he was homeless, living under a bridge. An employment specialist had the veteran come in that day and was able to quickly secure three months of rent plus three job interviews for the upcoming Monday. “He was hired on the spot at Home Depot for $18 an hour,” says Duening. “He went from living under a bridge to having three months rent and a full-time job with benefits in a weekend.”
The OVT program has many similar stories. Looking to the future, locating funding for the program is the main concern. “To grow and sustain OVT, we need to look at a diverse range of funding and earned revenue opportunities,” says Amy Scrivner, development director at Easter Seals TriState. “The program has received generous grants from local funders, including start-up funding from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and the Farmer Family Foundation. As these grants come to an end, we continue to seek additional funding.”
The OVT program receives little government funding, which can limit the flexibility of a program. Scrivner says ideal methods of support include grants from the community, corporate and family foundations, as well as donations from individuals who want to support veterans’ success.
“Businesses that are able to provide donations of stock and support are very helpful, too,” says Scrivner. “For example, local moving companies have donated their services to help move a veteran into housing and stores have provided gift cards to help meet the needs of veterans and their families.”
Another way to support OVT and Easter Seals TriState is to attend the annual Tailgate Bash on Fountain Square. Admission is free and attendees enjoy live music, food, beer, games and a corporate cornhole tournament.
“We rely on the generosity of corporate sponsors and cornhole team registrations to make the event a fundraising success,” says Scrivner.
In addition to philanthropic support, Easter Seals TriState helps match companies with their recruitment and hiring of veterans. “For a modest fee, employers may partner with OVT to find highly qualified veterans who bring an incredible work ethic and high demand skills to companies in our region,” says Scrivner. “We are also looking to provide greater services to those mid-sized businesses locally that may have federal contracts … we can partner to assist in creating their compliance plans and find qualified veteran candidates.”
For more information on sponsoring the 2016 Tailgate Bash, contact the development department at 513.386.6825.
Operation Vets THRIVE is located at 447 Morgan Street, Cincinnati, OH 45206. You can reach Community OneSource at 513.878.2200 and Easter Seals TriState’s development department at 513.386.6825. Visit their website at www.eastersealstristate.org.