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Veterans Helping Veterans

 

Program aims to get former military members back on track

 

By Pat Sherman | TODAY’S LOCAL NEWS | June 7, 2009

 

  FALLBROOK, Calif – As many as 40 percent of all homeless people in the United States are veterans, according to the statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

  If Albert Renteria has his way, that percentage will plummet and the image of veterans will dramatically improve.

 

  Renteria has founded the Southwest Veterans’ Business Resource Center (SWVBRC). The goal of the Fallbrook-based nonprofit is to help veterans find jobs, start businesses and improve their lives before they wind up on the streets.

 

  “Veterans have a tendency to be perceived as a cost center, not a profit center,” said Renteria, a retired chief warrant officer with the United States Marines. “If we get them on this track, in this program, and focus on prevention and early intervention, we can keep them from becoming homeless and convert them into a profit center.” Renteria’s center, which opened on Veterans Day last fall, provides a place where veterans and active duty military can receive free career counseling and access to the Internet and other resources seven days a week. Services, including job placement, are free to all military members who have served at least 180 consecutive days of active duty and are still serving or were honorably discharged.

 

  Vista resident Frances Lowe, a volunteer community organizer for the center is working with the Veterans Association of North County to establish a satellite office in Vista or Oceanside.

 

  Lowe said one of the reasons veterans often fall through the cracks is that they are conditioned to be stoic and self-reliant, and may be embarrassed to reach out for help.

 

  Veterans who sign on as “learners” in the center’s 14 level Reintegration Program can receive up to $2,080 in stipends as they blog about their lives and goals. Participants receive some money each time they complete and write about one of the 14 steps geared toward helping them “increase their self-reliance,” Renteria said. The program takes more than 400 hours.

 

  “We promote the idea that every veteran is a self-starter, provided they’re given the tools,” Renteria said. “We’re helping them reinvent themselves.”

 

  Since November, 29 veterans have signed up to be learners. The steps can be completed online, from anywhere in the country, so several of the learners live in other states.

 

  Renteria envisions opening similar centers across the country to offer more hands-on service. On Memorial Day, he opened a second volunteer-run center in Vancouver, Wash.

 

  Before being accepted as a learner, each participant must attend a four-hour orientation, during which Renteria and other mentors instill the concept of veterans helping other veterans.

 

  “Every veteran wants to know, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ” Renteria said. “During the orientation, I shift the concern.”

 

  San Marcos resident Richard Cloonan, a retired Navy dentist and Vietnam War veteran, signed on as a learner and center volunteer to share his success story with others.

 

  Cloonan said veterans often underestimate the valuable  skills they acquire during their military service. He advises them to get back on track and return to school.

 

  “We’ve all had our traumas, we all had our close calls and it is affected different people different ways,” said Cloonan, 68. “I wanted to tell my story so that they could see that you don’t have to be a genius to get through all this.”

 

  Cloonan said many veterans face self-esteem issues.

 

  “When they go through this program, they’re learning about themselves, (figuring out) what their goals are, what they really want to do, “ he said. “A lot of people get in a rut, and they really don’t have any goals or objectives. What we’re trying to do is redirect them.”

 

  Several veterans have landed jobs as a result of the program. Brooke Raffaele was hired by a local hospital, and Robert McLeod now works at a Veterans Affairs clinic in San Marcos.

 

  Daniel Boothe, an active duty Marine who works in the communications department at Camp Pendleton, learned about the center when he wrote about its opening last fall. After speaking with Renteria, he signed on as a learner and volunteer. Boothe is currently working with Cloonan, helping him market a dental hygiene product he is developing.

 

  “One unspoken thing is that you really care genuinely about the person and their well-being,” Boothe said. “When we have meetings, we address all needs, like “How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? Do you need support?”

 

  Boothe said he hopes to see Cloonan’s dental hygiene product take off, so that the business can start giving back to the center.

 

 “We don’t forget where we came from,” Boothe said.

 

Southwest Veterans’ Business Resource Center

  WHERE 145 E. Fig St., Suite D, Fallbrook, CA 92028 - - 16505 SE First St., Suite H, Vancouver, WA 88684

  HOURS Contact each center to learn best time to visit

  INFORMATION www.SWVBRC.org or (760) 728-3200 - - (360) 314-6325

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A welcoming home for our Troops.

Welcoming home our men and women doesn't end after the crowd disperses, it MUST continue on for the life of the Veteran! They've served us, now we will serve them with programs that work so they reintegrate into society.

We are a national public benefit nonprofit organization that educates American Communities about best practices to serve Veterans.  We honor their service by empowering Veterans to apply their training and skills to successfully transition to productive careers and enterprises.

We provide free vocational training 24/7 to all of our members through our website, in addition to local events.  We believe the tenet that American Communities are the ultimate beneficiaries when Veterans claim their benefits and invest in productive endeavors.

The SWVBRC enlists the support of members of local Communities like you to increase Veteran awareness of the value of obtaining a VA card and receiving earned benefits.

Sponsorships, donations, volunteers and support from communities like yours enable us to reach out to Veterans and empower them to transition back into successful, productive enterprises that ultimately benefit all Americans and support future generations.

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The Internal Revenue Service has determined that Southwest Veterans' Business Resource Center, Inc. is an organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A donation to SWVBRC, Inc. is deductible to the extent permitted under law.

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