United Way Leader Elise Buik Visits JVS West Hollywood WorkSource Center

A mutual interest in programs aiding veterans brought United Way’s Elise Buik to JVS’ West Hollywood WorkSource Center this week to meet with clients of JVS’ successful Veterans First program.

Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, toured the WorkSource Center Thursday with JVS CEO Vivian Seigel. During the visit, Buik spoke with three veterans who have found success through Veterans First. Serving primarily veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, Veterans First provides professional career coaching, job placement assistance, referrals and occupational skills retraining to eligible veterans.

Veterans Elbert Kim, Edward Chinchilla and Howard Liang discussed such topics as employer-held stereotypes of veterans and the difficulty of finding resources.

“Our clients were very open and Elise was very moved,” says Jessica Cheng, Veterans First Program Coordinator. “She said, ‘You’ve helped me put a face to it. I’ve learned so much.’ We need to get employers to realize that these veterans are just like you and me.”

“Elise wanted to hear from veterans on the challenges they face and what JVS’ Veterans First has been able to do for them,” added Evelyn Garcia, Program Officer, Financial Stability for United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “What works the best for those visits is for her to hear first hand of some of the challenges.”

Also present at the visit were JVS COO Claudia Finkel and Director of Workforce Development Marguerite Womack. Prior to joining JVS this summer, Womack worked for six years at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, four of them as Director of Economic and Workforce Development. 

Over the years, the United Way has generously contributed to several JVS initiatives including longtime sponsorship of the agency’s signature training programs HealthWorks™ and BankWork$.™ Buik’s visit comes as the United Way prepares to launch its own veterans initiative in 2013. The United Way has commissioned a report that will provide a “snapshot of the economic status of veterans in Los Angeles County.”

“We’ll be calling on the community to come together and work collectively to meet the variety of needs that veterans of L.A. county have,” Garcia said. “We know JVS is doing some good work.”

“The partnership is a natural one,” adds Womack. “We have a common vision for putting our veterans back to work. So I’m really excited about working together.”