On Saturday, November 3, Working Wardrobes and their VetNet program will host the Second Annual Walk in Their Shoes 5K Walk, Fun Run & Finish Line Festival, presented by Behr Paint Company. This exciting event will help to raise funds for VetNet and the programs that are essential to the success of veterans, so they can say, “I GOT THE JOB!”
The VetNet program was founded in 2012 by CEO of Working Wardrobes, Jerri Rosen, and retired Navy SEAL, Harry Humphries to provide important wrap-around services for veterans. To date, VetNet has assisted over 2,500 veterans in making the often difficult transition from military life to the civilian workforce. With more than 30,000 veterans returning from duty to Orange County each year, VetNet provides essential resources for these men and women who have served their country.
As part of this comprehensive program, veterans receive career assessment, job training opportunities, including comprehensive IT training that launched in 2018, resume writing and practice interviews, as well as professional wardrobing services. Most vets who enter the program begin with a week-long class called Power UP, which focuses on identifying barriers to employment, along with activities like art therapy and yoga class.
Brent is a recent graduate of Power UP. As a Marine veteran, with 15 years of government service in both the Navy and the State Department, Brent faced the difficult challenge of trying to translate his military experience into civilian workforce skills. “When I was in the military, I knew what my skills were – I can launch a Tomahawk missile…but how does that help me get a job?”
But aside from job skills, Brent had lost his sense of value – in himself and in his role in the community. “I had lost my footing in my life. I felt a sense of shame and I knew I didn’t have the skills to present myself.”
Brent looked for help, visiting Veterans Affairs (VA) and more than half a dozen other agencies, but he found that while he was getting a handout, he wasn’t acquiring any skills. He had also received a housing voucher, but it ran out in six months – not a lot of time to get his life together. He began volunteering at the VA in the hopes of getting a job there, but a hiring freeze went into effect before he could get a paycheck – at the same time that his housing voucher ran out.
“It wasn’t til I came to VetNet that I got back my sense of value.” For Brent, he knew that Working Wardrobes was different from the other agencies he’d tried “from the moment I walked in the door. I was spoken to with dignity and without judgement by the VetNet staff, who were fellow veterans. Everything, from the dialogue to the culture, attitude and the staff here was world-class.”
Even something as seemingly simple as a resume was a barrier that Brent had to overcome. He had worked on creating a resume at other agencies he had visited, but felt they did “more harm than good.” When he came to VetNet, Brent learned what his resume should really look like. “They taught me how to format it properly, what words to use to describe my skills, that it should be tailored for each job I was applying for….I never knew any of that. They taught me that there’s an algorithm when you apply for jobs online and how to get through that process without having your resume rejected.”
It also came back to values for Brent. “At VetNet, I learned that I could ask questions in a job interview – no one ever told me that before. And they taught me how to look for values and integrity in a company and whether they aligned with my own values.”
On his way to the first day of Power UP, Brent’s car broke down. Luckily, he had thrown his bike on his bike rack before he left home – part of his ‘contingency plan’ thinking from his military experience. “I just left my car on the side of the road and biked the rest of the way. I had made a commitment and I just knew that I needed to be there.”
“This program works because it’s a hand up, not a hand out. VetNet provides the service behind the tools. Every instructor, every class in Power UP – they were all huge lightbulb moments for me!”
Walking back into the Job Training Lab at the Working Wardrobes Career Center in Irvine where the Power UP week took place, Brent’s excitement is palpable, as he exclaims, “I love this room!” He remembers his fellow Power UP graduates fondly. “There was not one single person among the grads who wasn’t deeply touched by what we went through in the program.”
Brent was finally able to say “I got the job” when he was hired on at Working Wardrobes! He is passionate about being a part of the organization that transformed his life and wants to spread the word to other veterans. “I AM the before and after,” he says proudly.
Brent’s story is the reason behind Working Wardrobes VetNet’s Walk in Their Shoes event. Every dollar raised at the Walk goes directly to fund Power UP and job training programs for veterans like Brent.
The Walk in Their Shoes 5k Walk/Fun Run will be held at Lakeview Park in Orange, a private park with a view of Irvine Lake. The post-event Finish Line Festival will include activities like an obstacle course with the Marines, vendor tables, live entertainment, kids’ games & fun, food, drinks, and more. It’s also a great family activity, since kids under 10 are free and youth ages 11-15 are just $15.
Participants can gather their families, friends and colleagues to form a team, fundraise together and celebrate & honor the services of the men and women who served in the military. A reduced registration fee of $25 is available for active duty military and veterans.