MACV is hosting a series of recurring webinars for all job seekers through our Employment Services program. The webinars came about through feedback solicited by the MACV Employment Services team, who reached out to current and former program participants to see how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feedback focused on a lack of access to two services MACV previously provided during in-office visits: the resume classes formerly held twice a week in the MACV conference room, and an orientation session held in partnership with VA Community Employment Coordinator and Army Veteran Deric Williams focused on navigating and applying to jobs on federal job website USAJobs. Veterans and staff alike also noted the increasing number of companies conducting job interviews via phone or web-based platforms.
Responding to the evolving needs of Veterans looking for work, we hosted the first of our web series in June with “Resume Development,” followed up in August with “USAJobs: Learning How to Apply for Government Jobs,” and launching the “Telephone and Video Conference Interviewing Skills and Techniques” webinar in September. Staff also introduced a virtual workshop covering how to install Zoom, conduct basic internet searches, and complete online job searches and applications in September.
The team is also collaborating with MACV’s newly created Justice Involved Veterans initiative to develop a webinar aimed at addressing justice involvement during a job interview. These webinars are possible because of the hard work and expertise of presenters Bob Anderson (MACV), Deric Williams (Department of Veterans Affairs), and Kari Elias (Cygnus Recruiting Group). Thank you for your commitment to stabilizing Veterans in need!
Sometimes our veterans need more than just a “thank you for your service”. That’s why we created the Salute to Servicewomen Golf Classic. This event honors all women veterans AND gives more than just a “thank you” to those who find themselves homeless after leaving military service.
In 2019, this event raised enough money to provide monthly operational costs for two transitional homes and helped veterans move into permanent housing. In 2020, Covid-19 added additional challenges including cancelling our event. In 2021, monies raised will continue to support MACV housing for women veterans and families.
Intersecting identities are a prevailing theme in MACV provider stories. While we focus our services on Veterans, the nature of the U.S. military includes multiple generations and life stages. Case Manager and Army Veteran Amanda Hooper recently engaged with a Veteran in his seventies who recently suffered the loss of a close family member. After the remaining family decided to sell the house in which the two had resided for years, Ron* now had nowhere to live.
After reaching out to his VA case worker, who brought in MACV to secure short-term shelter for Ron, our team placed the Veteran in one of our partner hotels. Our staff collaboratively worked with the VA worker to address Ron’s barriers, which include myriad health conditions and no significant income. The Veteran’s adamant self-advocacy to stay in the community where he formerly resided added another layer to the case.
“He wanted to be someplace where his ties to the community were,” explains Hooper. When Ron was approved for his housing voucher and able to secure a residence in his community where his “regular life” was, it seemed like this was an open-and-shut case. MACV paid for the security deposit, first month’s rent, and connected Ron with resources to furnish his home as well as a move-in kit. The VA also provided home furnishings to help Ron get established on his own.
However, shortly after moving into his new home, Ron discovered a bizarre complication with his Social Security payment: the Social Security Administration (SSA) thought he was dead. Ron had not received his benefit for a few months before this point, but multiple addresses and the flurry of activity to house the Veteran had put this situation on the back burner.
“I’ll give him props, he’s very much on top of it,” notes Hooper. Ron immediately reached out to both his case workers to problem-solve this latest hiccup, which is set to resolve during a meeting at the local SSA office in early March. Given these complications and the slow pace of righting inaccuracies, losing a steady address is especially disastrous for Ron right now. As a result, MACV decided to provide the Veteran’s portion of the rent payment until his payment resumes.
Coordinating the medical, social, and financial needs of Veterans ranging from 25 to 90+ is a difficult juggling act every provider at MACV undertakes. Working with SSA in addition to the VA requires the ability to function within different administrative structures, but the decisions made by staff at these separate agencies have equally huge impacts on our clients. Ron is lucky to have such a committed expert on his team as Amanda, and we are confident that Ron can look forward to smooth sailing ahead!
*Veteran name changed to protect confidentiality
The Mankato Elks Lodge is proud to partner with MACV’s southern region team in pursuit of our shared goal of assisting the local Veteran community. The Mankato Elks Lodge appreciates that MACV is on the front lines and can easily assess needs and eligibility for the Elks programs. We are blessed to have several current and former MACV employees join our Lodge to help further our mutual goals.
This collaborative partnership has taken many forms over the years; the Lodge has supported MACV by providing vouchers for food or fuel, fundraising assistance, strong partnership in local Stand Down events, and otherwise providing Veterans help in their time of need. The Mankato Elks Lodge also launched their “Welcome Home Kits Program” 5 years ago, specifying MACV Veterans as the recipients of their generosity. The kits provide many household items to MACV Veterans moving into housing after an episode of homelessness.
With more than 1.1 million members in more than 2,100 Lodges nationwide, the Elks is one of the largest and most active fraternal organizations in the United States, as well as the largest civilian-run Veteran-focused organization.
“So long as there are Veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”
3M rounded out a multitude of donations, both in-kind and financial, by fully matching $5,000 of YOUR end-of-year donations! Between the giving campaigns and value of goods donated to Veterans staying in area hotels through our placement program 3M has awarded more than $12,000 to MACV in the past two months. Thanks again for your continued partnership!
MACV established a new partnership over the course of the 2020 holiday season which provides a unique donation to the Veteran community. Rich Bohaty, along with his son Brian, collaborated with Kurt Krummel at St. Paul’s Big Steer Meats to provide over 175 pounds of ham, 100 turkeys and 200 boxes of venison for distribution to Veterans in need. Rich, who volunteers with conservation nonprofit Pheasants Forever, is dedicated to feeding our brave through donations to the military community.
Our team recently helped deliver packages from Big Steer Meats to Minnesota National Guard members returning from deployment as well as several Veteran and family support groups throughout the state.
MACV is proud to support this relationship and thank Rich, Brian, and Kurt for making this timely donation. Our success relies on connections with people who believe in our mission and creating ties within our Veteran community in Minnesota. We look forward to continuing to share these gifts with those who served or still wear the uniform.
If you would like to find out more about Pheasants Forever or Big Steer Meats, please contact our office, or call Rich or Kurt at 651-395-1495. They would love to connect with other Veteran groups or organizations which could benefit from this partnership!
Many Veterans leave the military with skills and interests which align them with industries such as construction, transportation, logistics, and labor, which all have strong union presences in the American workforce. Employment Case Manager Ryan Schaefer, a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps with a background which includes carpentry, farming, and now social services, has great insight into the opportunities and challenges labor unions create for MACV Veterans.
“I’ve helped guys get up to date or keep up to date if they’re behind on their union due,” explains Schaefer, “That’s the number one that we use.” Other common interactions MACV has with local unions include initial payment of dues for new members, which are commonly higher than the maintenance payment existing members pay.
Why pay dues at all? Local labor unions often hold the cards for lucrative, stable jobs in skilled labor industries like plumbing and electrician work. Dues paid by union laborers give them access to these opportunities, bargaining rights, and protections from a volatile job market.
At least in theory. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on even the most stable unions, sidelining industries such as electricians and construction workers for months or even years. “[A Minnesota] electrician’s union didn’t even accept any applications in 2020, so now there’s a backlog of two years’ worth of member applications which need processing,” reports Schaefer. These kinds of administrative problems have very real impacts on the financial stability of Veterans served by MACV.
Barriers like reliable transportation across a physically large state with a wide range of work sites also pose challenges to Veterans who may not have a driver’s license or cannot afford a car. Paying upfront for expenses like a hotel room or other temporary living arrangement, then waiting for union reimbursement, often writes MACV Veterans off the list for high-paying jobs outside their immediate community.
Schaefer also notes that Veterans themselves often play a significant role in whether they succeed in the union environment. Soft skills MACV emphasizes in its Employment Services like monitoring job boards, using computers to apply for jobs, building interpersonal relationships in the work environment, and becoming familiar with conduct standards all play roles in the successful union member’s life. “We might have a guy who gets their first job after we pay their union dues, but then never finds another one because he doesn’t look,” he explains.
These simple oversights may discourage an inexperienced worker and have long-lasting impacts on their employability and ability to build experience on the job. Factors such as age, criminal background, professional qualifications, and reputation also contribute to a Veteran’s success in the union-tied trades.
At the end of the day, choosing to join or leave the U.S. military is a career choice. Bridging the divide between the military and civilian work environment is the most concrete divide Veterans experience upon leaving active duty. A shared background in the military and civilian worlds is an especially critical factor for working with the Veteran population struggling to succeed in their work life. MACV considers this team a critical element for the long-term stabilization of homeless and at-risk Veterans. Thanks for all the hard work, guys!
Wrapping Up Our Most Successful Giving Season Ever
MACV wants to highlight the remarkable commitment shown by Mankato Area Cornhole, a newer partnership which has flourished over the last year thanks to owner Jason Zuehlke and Sadie Rezac, MACV’s Southern Region Leader.
Zuehlke and Rezac first got to know each other while planning a fundraiser in 2019 with another MACV partner in Southern Minnesota. Zuehlke’s competitive cornhole tournaments often contain a fundraising element with proceeds donated by entry fees, in-kind donations, and financial giving contributed during the event itself. “He’s really good at making it fun,” notes Rezac.
Even though COVID-19 derailed plans to combine a hog roast with a cornhole tournament for 2020’s event, Zuehlke was determined to press ahead with a fundraiser for MACV. He reached out to his community to designate MACV as the beneficiary of a tournament hosted in October at the Nicollet VFW Post, requesting that all attendees bring an item to donate as well.
The event resulted in collecting dozens of high-quality items such as gift cards, cold weather gear, and hygiene products, as well as over $2,800 donated to benefit MACV programs. We hope that the end of winter weather and resuming larger gatherings leads to even more growth in our relationship with Mankato Area Cornhole. We wish Mankato Area Cornhole a happy Thanksgiving from the thankful group at MACV.