The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

July 7, 2012

Multi-county program hopes to provide help to veterans

CLINTON — Congressman Dave Loebsack visited Clinton on Friday afternoon to discuss issues concerning area veterans.

“I just think it’s really important that we make sure that we treat our veterans the way they should be treated,” Loebsack said Friday afternoon during a presentation at the Clinton Public Library, 306 Eighth Ave. South.

Area veterans, as well as representatives of Goodwill Industries of the Heartland and other local organizations, met in the upstairs boardroom of the library to share their work and stories with Loebsack.

Loebsack announced in June that Goodwill Industries of the Heartland, based in Iowa City, would receive a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veteran’ Employment and Training Service through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. The grant is to provide job training for homeless veterans in Scott, Clinton and Muscatine counties in Iowa and Rock Island, Whiteside and Henry counties in Illinois.

“We are very privileged to be able to help men and women who have devoted theirselves and served our country,” Pat Airy, from Goodwill of the Heartland, said. “And we’re all about changing lives and helping people reach their full potential.”

Airy said they were pleased to once again receive the grant.

She reported that in the past six years, the organization has served 804 veterans and placed 529 veterans in competitive employment positions.

“I’m really happy the Goodwill of the Heartland got this grant,” Loebsack said.

Loebsack added that this country needs to get homeless veterans back into the workforce so they can once again become productive citizens. He feels Goodwill Industries of the Heartland is a wonderful program. He also traveled to Muscatine and Davenport on Friday to discuss the issue.

The organization offers homeless veterans some work while giving them job training and assistance. Employment Specialist Ryan Bloomberg said the definition of homeless includes those who are living in a shelter, “couch surfing,” living with their parents or those who have an apartment but receive subsidies.

Job Trainer Sally Shipman teaches veterans in the program how to work in retail, offering the training on a cash register and other tasks. Goodwill of the Heartland allows the veterans to work 12 hours in a Goodwill store, giving them some money right away while they look for other jobs. Bloomberg then works with them on their resumes and job searching, checking that they are searching for work.

Loebsack was particularly interested in hearing from those who have been through the program. Some local veterans attended the meeting to share their stories.

Local veteran Jason Siglar spoke about his time with the local Goodwill. After serving for almost four years, Siglar returned from the Army in 2007. He said that he thought he was “super employable.”

“But there’s things that you don’t put on your resume that you bring back from the military,” Siglar said.

He suffered from substance abuse issues, detachment from emotions and depression. He ended up homeless and unemployed for a year.

He became involved with the Goodwill in April 2011 after he heard a veteran’s program commercial while buying clothes in the Goodwill store. In May 2011 he was hired as a temporary employee and then moved to a retail job in the store. Almost a year ago, he heard that a job-training position had opened up and applied for it. Siglar is happy to be able to help and train clients with the same type of special need he once had. He referenced an old Goodwill slogan that says the program gives a hand up, not a hand out.

“That’s what they really did for my life. They got me back working,” Siglar said. “I mean it really turned my life around.”

At the end of the presentation, Loebsack was happy to hear these great success stories. He said that when they are talking about programs paid for by taxpayers’ money, they need to know the programs are successful.

“And so we’ve got to make sure that they do what they are intended to do,” Loebsack said. “And clearly, in your cases, this program did it.”

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