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A helping hand for military veterans

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Re: A helping hand for military veterans

Post by Newf on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 19:14

Some great success stories. I am glad to see these opportunities being made available to our veterans.
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A helping hand for military veterans

Post by Teentitan on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 10:52

An inclusive gym where everyone can work out, regardless of ability.

A company that makes all-natural dog treats — and employs ex-military types and disabled people.

A home where veterans suffering post-traumatic stress can heal.

Those are just a few of the businesses that are either in the works or up and running successfully, thanks to an organization that provides collateral-free financing and mentoring to former military types making the transition to civilian life.

Futurpreneur is one of the Prince’s Charities Canada (PCC). Prince Charles supports several charitable organizations — with a special focus on disadvantaged youth and the military.

Futurpreneur’s Senior Director Beth Dea was approached by PCC five years ago, as Canada’s withdrawal from Afghanistan approached. They knew there’d be a need to find work for the returning troops.

“They determined that there’s a fair amount out there for job-seekers, but not really anything in the area of entrepreneurship,” she said.

After extensive research, her group found only one program — at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

Every year, a group of business students would raise money from local businesses. The faculty donated their time and they put on a week-long boot camp for five or six military.

“We looked at that and thought we could replicate that model across the country, because the student group was part of a national student group called Enactus,” she recalled.

From that small beginning and with co-funding from Business Development Canada and working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of National Defence, many veterans have started successful businesses.

“The thing that makes this program unique is the involvement of students,” Dea said.

“It’s incredible the magic that happens when these boot camps take place.”

Since 2012, they’ve put on 13 boot camps; 250 people have gone through that process, starting 161 new businesses. Of those people, 66% have been medically released from the military.

•••

Leendert Bolle, 39:

Bolle joined the military in 1998 and served four overseas tours - one in Bosnia and three in Afghanistan with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.

When he got out in 2014, he’d already begun the transition to civilian life, starting his St. Catharines-based HeroDogTreats two years earlier. But he was fearful of taking it to a full-time business.

“I needed to find a support network I could go to if and when questions arose,” Bolle told me.

He did a Futurpreneur boot camp in July 2014.

“As far as the mentoring program, it makes the difference between winning and losing. I tell people it’s the difference between surviving and thriving,” he said.

Sales are up 500% over his first year. This year he’s doing $1 million in business.

Better still, he’s been able to go back to his mentors when he’s needed more feedback.

“I had no life experience in business,” he said.

“It gives me the confidence to move forward.”

Bolle employs military veterans and contracts work to Community Living, producing and packaging dehydrated single-ingredient dog treats.

I tell people, “what you see is what you get.

“A chicken foot is a chicken foot and a duck foot is a duck foot,” he said.

Developmentally-delayed people with conditions such as Down Syndrome and mostly living in group homes, help with packaging, under supervision.

“I have a deep gratitude for the students who volunteer for the program and also for the mentors within Futurpreneur because I truly believe it was their role within my transition that’s allowed me to be successful and hire other people,” he said.

•••

Jody Mitic, 39:

In 2007, life turned upside down for Mitic, a sniper with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He stepped on a landmine serving in Afghanistan and lost both his legs.

Mitic now wants to open a gym in Ottawa.

“In the last several years, I’ve been really focusing on my fitness and my quality of life,” he said in an interview.

“I was always a fit man before, but since I became injured it’s been more important.”

He’s leaving Sunday for Memorial University to take part in a seven-day boot camp to get advice and mentoring from a business student on how to do it.

He wants the gym to be more than a place to work out. He envisions a gathering place employing other veterans, with a restaurant and other services, for people who want to live fitter and healthier lifestyles.

“Transitioning out of the military is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said.

“I grew up in the military. I joined at 17. I grew into a man in the military. I planned to stay forever, until I was too old.”

After he returned to Canada and left the military, he got elected as an Ottawa city councillor.

“That’s politics and that’s not necessarily guaranteed,” he said.

Once he left the military, he found himself lacking direction.

“You’re coming from the embracing, loving hold of the military, where from private to general they dictate your life in many ways.”

Mitic, the author of the bestselling book, Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper, wants to be self-sufficient and to help other veterans in the process.

“If you have the ability to employ an ex-military type, then you jump at it because you know what they’re capable of.”

•••

Stephen Beardwood, 53:

Beardwood wants to create Veterans House, a hub where former military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental illness can get well.

He says veterans suffering from operational stress injuries have to travel to where the resources are.

“Once the veteran has those resources they have to go home to practise and make it work. At that point it becomes self-evaluation,” he said.

He’s trying to create a home facility where veterans could live for a short time. “They’d move in on a temporary basis for as long as they need to be there.” They’d still connect with therapists and have peer support to ensure they comply with their therapy.

Based in Gananoque, Beardwood’s been offered a large house in town which he says would fit their needs.

“We’re looking at that as an option,” he said.

His plan is based on his own experiences. Prior to its disbandment, Beardwood served with the Airborne Regiment in Somalia.

“When we came back we were all badly damaged,” he said.

“There was no expertise. No one knew how to deal with post-traumatic stress. I went through 20 years of hell. I lost everything — my family, my children. You name it I lost it all. So for me it’s been 20 years rebuilding. And what this project is about is preventing that from happening in the future,” he said.

“My business interest in this is to change the dialogue.”

His plan would also help address homelessness among veterans.

His dream is now coming true. Veterans House was formally incorporated in June.

“We’re going to do a small campaign because we need operating expenses, so we’re going to run that through social media and online,” he said.

“What Futurepreneur and Prince’s Charities showed us is that this isn’t a local problem and it can’t be treated as a local problem, so it allowed us the skills that we needed to take it to a national program.”

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/16/a-helping-hand-for-military-veterans
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