My nephew Erik, a Vancouver, Washington firefighter, has developed a veterans mentorship program, which has now officially become a Washington state non-profit organization called Boots to Boots. The purpose of Boots to Boots is to assist military veterans with the sometimes difficult transition to civilian life, and also to show them that the life experience they gained while serving our country makes them excellent candidates for serving our communities as firefighters. This is a journey that Erik himself took after his time as an Army Ranger. It was a fairly long, competitive process and his purpose in developing Boots to Boots is to give the veterans a leg-up in pursuing a career in the fire service.
Boots to Boots has taken off! 30 Vancouver firefighters have volunteered to be mentors for veterans from all branches of the military, many of whom have already taken the opportunity to use the program to begin practice testing for fire service jobs; the Mayor of Vancouver and the CEO of the Bank of Clark County are on their Board of Directors; the fire chief for Vancouver Fire Department has given tremendous support and has also spoken to fire personnel across the country about the program; Erik's union donated $1000 to develop our first run of t-shirts to begin fundraising; and he has support from the local VA. Erik and Boots to Boots have already been featured on KPTV Channel 12 news and in The Columbian newspaper:
Erik and his board of directors would eventually like to see this program spread across the region, or maybe even further. Boots to Boots is free-of-charge to the veterans. Their non-profit attorney has assured them that their 501(c)(3) status should be approved. When that happens, they will begin applying for grants. In the meantime, they have started to fundraise. Their hope is that in reaching out to those they know, and hopefully through them reaching out to an even larger circle, they can begin gathering some funds and spreading the word.
Please feel free to contact them if you would like more information about Boots to Boots. Their website is under construction at www.BootstoBoots.org, their email address is BootstoBoots@gmail.com and their mailing address is Boots to Boots, 13504 N.E. 84th Street, Ste. 103-307, Vancouver, WA 98682.
Many people have a connection with a veteran, and would like to make some sort of contribution to veterans' futures. The feedback they have received from the veterans themselves - those actively participating in the program and those simply calling to say thank you - has been inspiring and heartwarming.