MelwoodvaughanMary Ann Vaughan, Veteran and Client of Melwood Horticultural Center, Inc. received a $13,000 grant in 2019 from the Military Personnel & Their Families Fund through the Community Investment Funds grant cycle. This grant supported its Vets Ready2Work Program, providing workforce development and vocational support services for veterans in Northern Virginia in need of employment. Melwood shared the following testimonial to show how this grant helped one of their clients, Mary Ann.

Army veteran Mary Ann Vaughan was laid off in early 2019 as a result of the Government Shutdown. She was determined to find a new job and was confident that her military experience, academic degrees and valuable skills in web design would be appealing to employers. For nine months she sent out a constant stream of applications and even worked with a counselor at an employment agency, but all to no avail. Mary found herself unable to get her foot in the door and fell into a deep depression. Every day she worried about how she was going to make ends meet.

One day, Mary’s counselor referred her to Erica Smith, a program support specialist with Melwood’s Vets Ready2Work program which specializes in helping transition vets from military to civilian employment. According to Mary, “It was hard to get a job as an injured veteran, and I was happy to finally find a company like that understood the challenges and embraced me.”

Melwood, a nonprofit that has been training and employing individuals of differing abilities for more than 55 years, established Melwood Veterans Services (MVS) to focus specifically on the needs of injured veterans. Its programs include Operation Tohidu®, a week-long experiential retreat designed to help heal the psychological wounds of veterans with post-traumatic stress, brain trauma injury, and survivors of military sexual trauma. MVS’s employment program, Vets Ready2Work, assists injured veterans with their professional development by identifying skill sets acquired during military service to help them compete for civilian jobs. This includes job development, resume building, mock interviews, job placement, career assessment, and more.

Erica helped Mary obtain a paid internship with SourceAmerica and within two months Vaughan was offered a full-time position as a web editor with the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir where she was reunited with some of her old Army buddies.

“Everything has worked out since I started that internship,” Vaughan said. “Erica was just a Godsend. She stuck by me through all the frustrations and even when I was ready to give up. She helped me get myself back.”

Before she began her internship, Vaughan said her unemployment seemed to turn employers away. Now that she’s working, she’s turning down job offers.

“I knew she was going to get a job because she was very talented,” Erica said. “She was very determined and adamant about finding something.”

Working with Vets Ready2Work gave Vaughan the momentum and encouragement to keep searching for the right job.

Thanks to the support of The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, injured veterans will have access to the support they need to gain meaningful employment.

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