SARASOTA -- Hundreds of veterans came out to Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday morning, many walking away with the possibility of a job in the near future, others with the promise of a warm meal, help with medications or the promise of an education.
The Goodwill Manasota Veterans & Their Families Job & Services Fair connected veterans from Manatee and Sarasota counties and even as far away as Tampa with 38 veteran service or community organizations. Additionally, local employers were in attendance with job opportunities.
For many, like Marcus Davenport, the job and services fair provided much needed information.
"There was a lot of really good, helpful people here," Davenport said.
Davenport, a six-year Army veteran, said he just got out in November.
"I wanted to see what my choices were so I could make a good decision," Davenport said. "There were a lot of veteran services that I didn't know about before."
The Job and Services Fair was made possible thanks to a collaboration between Goodwill Manasota, Suncoast Workforce and the Legacy of Valor campaign. Veterans first strolled through booths hosted by the many organizations that offer services for veterans.
"I think what was really, really impressive here today was that the entire VA was here," said Goodwill Manasota Director of Marketing Yen Reed. "For many people the VA is just a phone number, so it was great that we had five departments from the VA."
So many local veterans are in need of more than just a job, according to Reed.
Some need help finding a home or translating their military experience into an attractive and compatible resumé for work outside the military.
Some of the veterans in attendance were prepared thanks to assistance they received picking out business attire during the Dress for Success workshop hosted by Goodwill Manasota.
Albert Batholomew, an eight-year Army veteran, was one of the many dressed for success.
"Dress for Success was a wonderful experience for us," Bartholomew said. "Hopefully I get a job at one of the places I apply."
With the driving experience he received in the Army, Bartholomew is optimistic about his driver application with FedEx.
Goodwill Manasota Vice President Veronica Brandon Miller said organizers were very excited with the turnout.
"When we arrived at 8:30 this morning there were already about a dozen homeless veterans lined up outside," Miller said. "That was very touching."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.