Ken Sayre of WSOS Veterans Program
Ken Sayre served 22 years in the U.S. Navy. After he retired, he worked in the corporate sector for a time, then came to the realization that he really wanted to work with veterans. In 2012, he came to WSOS Community Action to work with the veterans program.
In a meeting with Director Roger Fisher, they decided what was most needed was employment and training for returning veterans, including the associated skills of work readiness, interview techniques, how to build a resume, how to dress for success and how to budget.
Other veterans needed to be set up with disability benefits with the VA, to help them if they were not able to work or until they are able to work.
There were several Vietnam vets that did not know they were due benefits or that there had been changes with the Veterans Administration in qualifications for benefits.
Sayre finds that two problems often stand in the way of a veteran getting help: some vets are too proud to ask for help; others do not know that help is available.
Training and employment
Last year WSOS obtained a grant to help 60 veterans get jobs. Within 9 months, 45 of the veterans were trained and employed. 23 did short-term training programs in areas such as commercial driver’s license, computer design, HVAC, STNA, welding and marine mechanics. These programs seemed to work particularly well because they can get the veteran into the employment market quickly.
The six pilot programs in Ohio had great success. “It is wonderful to see the transition (of a person) from being broken to being fixed,” says Sayres.”When a vet is fixed, his family is also helped.” There may be more funding available because of the need and the success of the pilot programs.
Last week U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown also announced a plan to reduce unemployment and ease the transition to civilian life for returning troops. The Troop Talent Act of 2013 would help veterans better utilize the skills they have acquired in the military to find full-time employment when they transition to civilian life.
This year’s WSOS project is the Fatherhood Project, helping approximately 125 veterans with fatherhood skills. Any vet that is a father figure can qualify for the fatherhood program. Income guidelines have been dropped. Fathers often get referred to WSOS from the courts, especially if they are behind in child support. Sayres emphasized that any veteran who wants to learn to be a better father can enroll in the program on his own. “We teach how to be a 24/7 dad. The transformation is awesome to see,” said Sayres.
It was discovered that in last year’s group of 60 veterans seven were homeless. Sayres said that WSOS has just received a grant for homeless vets that will include those who are living with friends and not on their own. The grant will cover WSOS’s counties of Wood, Sandusky, Ottawa and Seneca, and also Erie, Huron, and portions of Lucas and Lorain County. If anyone knows of vet who qualifies as homeless under the new guidelines, contact WSOS.
“WSOS is for building a better community. I am a veteran and love the veterans’ programs, but what we do is help people build and sustain a better life,” said Sayres, “If we can make a difference with these young men and women, it will help the community.”