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In Idaho, Veterans Help Veterans Fight Unemployment with AmeriCorps

by Kate Enos

Of the 130,000 veterans in Idaho, more than 30,000 are registered with the Idaho Department of Labor to receive employment resources and job training. Budget cuts, however, have put this program in jeopardy.

The state has been forced to cut back staff, leaving only ten people to serve the 30,000 Veterans registered in the ID DOL database. Through AmeriCorps, the agency found a solution. With the help of AmeriCorps members that are veterans themselves, the program has been saved.

These AmeriCorps members help veterans everyday with resume assistance, employment listings, mock interviews, and training opportunities in digital and technical skills. They also organize service opportunities for veterans during Veteran's Day and MLK Day of Service.

Donald Heuer, 61, is one of these members. After a 24-year career with the US Air Force, serving in the Vietnam and Gulf War, Donald was laid off and turned to AmeriCorps as an option to give back and serve his fellow veterans. In his second year as an AmeriCorps member based in Caldwell with the Idaho Department of Labor, Donald has made contact with more than 3,800 Veterans, promoting the services offered through the Department of Labor.

“With unemployment at 13% in Canyon County, veterans who come through are program are becoming more and more prepared to grasp the opportunities that are out there,” said Donald Heuer.

Success stories include one veteran, a self-employed electrician, who had come in after exhausting his savings with a family to care for. Heuer provided the man with employment listings, where the individual secured employment and went back to work two weeks later.

Another member is Neal Mays, 53. He served in US Navy during the Vietnam War. In addition to his duties as an AmeriCorps member based in both the Meridian and Boise offices, Mays also created “Computer for Kids”, which collects older computers and electronic equipment to be refurbished and be sold to military families at a low cost to help them communicate with their loved ones overseas. He has also organized an event for children of military personnel to connect with their loved ones via Skype.

“When we have individuals come in, some don't even know where to start in the search process,” said Mays. “We're here to simplify and explain the processes that are involved with employment training and resources and try to help these veterans get an upper leg in the their search.”

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