Focus on Manatee: Veterans helping veterans

January 13, 2014 

Mary Helen Kress

Veterans helping veterans

After serving in the Navy as a cryptology direct support supervisor in 2002, Matthew Shapiro held several positions from personal trainer and accountant to recruiter in New York. His true passion was discovered early in his career as a work study with the New York State Department of Labor, working directly with a local veterans employment representative. He became familiar with the job duties and developed an admiration for the role because of its ability to help veterans. Matthew did not want veterans to face the same hardships that he did as far as setting up his benefits after his service.

After being downsized from an accounting firm in 2012, he decided to move to Sarasota to be closer to family. Not knowing where to turn, he connected with a disabled veterans outreach representative at Suncoast Workforce. His passion for helping veterans was reignited when he was presented with great job opportunities and learned about the full array of benefits available to veterans.

Matthew joined Suncoast Workforce as a business services account executive and has since been promoted to the position of local veterans employment representative. Matthew and 13 other staffers who are veterans provide services to veterans on many fronts: resume preparation, career guidance, job referrals, interview preparation and much more.

The Suncoast Workforce has a mandate to provide a priority of service to veterans in all of its initiatives. One such initiative is the upcoming Jobs and Services Fair for veterans and their Families on Feb. 7 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to help them connect with local employers who are hiring and meet with community organizations offering free support services.

The Jobs and Services Fair is part of the Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor campaign and is designed to honor veterans, inspire patriotism and pass freedom on to others. With more than 30 partners on board in the four-county region (Charlotte, Desoto, Manatee, and Sarasota), the Legacy of Valor campaign has the potential to reach more than 900,000 residents and visitors, including thousands of veterans -- 48,000 in Manatee County alone. The Legacy of Valor campaign is an extension of the Patterson Foundation's design and construction of Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery. The 1.83-acre Patriot Plaza amphitheater will be used for patriotic-themed events.

Mary Helen Kress, President and CEO of Suncoast Workforce, a not-for-profit corporation serving Manatee and Sarasota Counties, writes about workforce issues in Manatee County.

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