Sarasota, Florida – At first glance, you may think these two well-dressed gentlemen in their early 50’s have a lot in common. Dig a little deeper and you’ll even find out both Mitch Helton and Tony Fiscalini entered the military right from high school in 1982. “I grew up in Gary Indiana- the murder capital of the world. No one went to college in my family and I pretty much had no direction in life. I enlisted in the Navy right from high school because I had no other option,” said Helton.
In a parallel life in Washington State, Tony’s story is similar, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Mitch Helton is now a CPA and a prominent wealth advisor who works for Northern Trust in Sarasota, managing money for the super wealthy. Tony Fiscalini is out of work and homeless.
Helton spent four years in the Navy, was stationed in San Diego and did two tours overseas. “It’s critical to have a support system,” he said. Helton found a mentor early on in the Navy. “His name was David – he was married and lived off ship. He saw something in me and encouraged me to take some classes at San Diego State and he held me accountable.” After the service, Helton went on to get a degree in accounting and has had a very successful career.
Fiscalini, on the other hand, spent 20 years in the military. He was a United States Marine, a Lieutenant even, who served this country from 1982 through 2002. He spent time in Grenada and Desert Storm.
But like many career soldiers, he was at a loss when he got out into the real world, and he has not been able to find or hold onto a job. “It’s frustrating. I’m told I’m either overqualified to be a restaurant server or under qualified to be a general manager, and that I lack experience. I just want to work,” he said.
As a Marine, he says he learned about how to be a model employee. “The Marine Corps spent millions of dollars training me in leadership, management and how to be a good worker. You would think all of those skills would be adaptable in the real world, but they’re not because I have skills but no experience,” he said.
Goodwill Manasota recently brought these two men together at its “Dress a Vet” event. Part of a larger veterans initiative that provides education, training, and job placement, “Dress a Vet” provides suits and dress clothes for free to veterans looking to attend the Veterans and Their Families Job Fair in Sarasota on September 7. About 12 veterans showed up for help to look their best for the event.
“Most vets go right from high school into the military, like I did. They are used to having one uniform- maybe two. They don’t know how to dress when they get out. They’ll put a blue jacket with brown pants. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but on a job interview, it is,” said Helton. He attends many Goodwill events and hands out a business card to every veteran in need he meets. “Helping vets is my passion; it’s something I do on my own time,” he said. “If we can improve the lives of just a handful of them, that would make me happy. I know it can be done from my own experience. If I can be that mentor to someone else, that would be a big deal for me,” he said.
“This is very valuable,” said Fiscalini. “Especially when you haven’t dressed yourself in 20 years!” he joked.
Standing up straighter than when he arrived and looking sharp in his new duds, Fiscalini says he feels good about the upcoming job fair.
“I just want to be living on my own and get back on my feet. In the military you learn how to follow orders, be loyal and be adaptable. We can change at the drop of hat. Employers should take a step back and realize we’re the people they want,” said Fiscalini.
Goodwill Manasota, changing lives – one Veteran at a time.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota, Inc. is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit business that turns donations into good jobs, good homes and good neighborhoods.
About Legacy Of Valor
The Jobs and Fair initiative is part of The Patterson Foundation’s Legacy of Valor campaign and is designed to honor veterans, inspire patriotism and pass freedom on to others. With more than 30 partners on board in the four-county region- Charlotte, Desoto, Manatee, and Sarasota –the Legacy of Valor campaign has the potential to reach more than 900,000 residents and visitors, including thousands of veterans (48,000 in Manatee County alone).
The Legacy of Valor campaign is an extension of The Patterson Foundation’s design and construction of Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery. This is the first time a private philanthropy has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to build the Patriot Plaza amphitheater on 1.83 acres that will be used for patriotic-themed events. It is anticipated that the dedication of Patriot Plaza will be held at the end of the Legacy of Valor campaign in Spring 2014.
About Suncoast Workforce
Suncoast Workforce provides businesses with talent sourcing and development services, as well as career services for job seekers. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities by calling TTY/TDD 711.