GI GO Fund and JobPath - Disability Employment
Recently, we had the opportunity to visit one of our grantees, the GI Go Fund in Newark, New Jersey. The mission of the GI Go Fund is to support veterans and their families by connecting them with services they need to lead fulfilling lives in the civilian sector. In 2018, the GI Go Fund held a ribbon cutting for the opening of the Jackson Drysdale Veterans Center, a veteran incubator where veterans receive support for starting and growing their own businesses.
The center itself was launched through a community partnership of Kessler Foundation, Prudential, Panasonic, and JobPath, the innovative employment tool developed at the GI Go Fund for job seekers transitioning from military service. Today's podcast is being brought to you from the Drysdale Veterans Center where we interviewed Jack Fanous, GI Go Fund founder, and Justin Constantine, the first veteran to use resources of the Drysdale Center. Justin is a former Marine lieutenant colonel, an attorney, and is now an inspirational speaker and leadership consultant. He survived a gunshot wound to the head while serving in Iraq. Justin is the author of My Battlefield, Your Office: Leadership Lessons From the Front Lines.
They talked with Kessler Foundation’s senior writer CarolAnn Murphy.
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Below is an excerpt from the conversation.
Founding GI Go Fund
“My brother and I and a group of friends founded the GI Go Fund 13 years ago after our best friend Lieutenant Seth Dvorin, was killed in Iraq," says Fanous. "Since then, we have made it our mission to help veterans transition at home. If they're facing homelessness, if they're facing mental health and if they're facing unemployment. We help them find jobs. We help them transition home, and put their lives back together.”
Advantages of Hiring Veterans in the Workforce
“One veteran said something that changed my life 10 years ago," says Fanous. "He said, ‘veterans are trained to be trainable, and that's very valuable in today's day and age.’ As the labor market continues to change with the technologies that we're using, you want somebody who is able to be trained, someone who's willing to be trained, so as they move forward and as they move up your company's ranks, they're willing to be trained and learn the new technologies that you're using. When bringing a veteran into your company, you're bringing someone in who's hardworking and dedicated, mission driven, and will help the bottom line on a daily basis.”
Message for Veterans Looking for Work
I recognize that every single person is different and there are a wide variety of disability,” says Justine Constantine. “I have physical wounds. Obviously I was shot in the head and that took a long time to recover. But I also have the invisible wounds of war which are the signature wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan of PTSD and traumatic brain injury. I went to counseling for 18 months for the PTSD, one-on-one weekly sessions with a psychologist, which was the best decision I could ever make. So if there's a disabled veteran out there with mental health issues, I really encourage you to get the help that you deserve and you need, and maybe your family needs you to do that as well. But the point is, I surrounded myself with good people. I had layouts and goals of where I wanted to get to. I tried really hard. I recognize that our lives could be changed or over in an instant, and so I want to use my time extremely effectively, and so I don't try to boil the ocean, as they say. I focus on a handful of things I think I can do, and I want to be good at each one of those. So for disabled veterans or veterans or service members leaving the military, quickly try to identify what it is you want to do. And that list could change, but-- and be okay asking for help, reaching out to others. Everyone wants to help us, and take advantage of that help and then push forward. Dust yourself off and keep going, because there is nothing that we can't accomplish. We are all capable of doing amazing things. I have those I look to for inspiration, and hopefully you have some as well.”
How Kessler’s Funding Help Veterans with Disabilities
“Kessler has been here since the beginning," says Fanous. "They have funded some variation of our training centers since 2008, helped us grow to where we are today, and helped us pivot towards disabilities. By recognizing that Kessler focuses on people with disabilities, that specific demographic really opened up our eyes. We realized we built some incredible stuff for veterans with disabilities. So basically, giving back the way Kessler gave us, we can give back now. I can't thank Kessler enough."