SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – On Nov. 15, Goodwill Manasota presented its Legacy Breakfast, featuring special guest Heather French Henry, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs and former Miss America. Henry was part of a delegation of five “Forever Miss Americas” participating in The Patterson Foundation’s Veterans Legacy Summit, which brought together leaders who support veterans and their families in Sarasota on Nov. 14 and 15.
During her presentation, Henry — whose father was a Vietnam veteran — spoke about challenges facing our returning heroes, primarily finding permanent and affordable housing, jobs, and female veterans’ issues such as sexual trauma suffered during military service and caring for children. She noted that organizations like Goodwill are doing very well in the veterans’ arena, offering kudos to Goodwill Manasota leadership, staff and supporters. Henry also pointed out that creative partnerships are where the most good are done: between government entities, the school system, nonprofits and philanthropists.
While Henry focused much attention on statistics within the Kentucky state system, she noted that the issues resonate across the country. She talked about the need to provide support for the families of veterans, including counseling, and also discussed that the transition to civilian life is not usually a smooth one. She asserted that being there for our returning heroes is simply “the right thing to do” and that Americans can never do enough for its veterans.
“These men and women coming home need lifelong care,” she said. “We should NEVER stop saying, ‘Welcome home.’ We can never say thank you enough.”
During her year of service as Miss America, Henry chose to highlight the needs of homeless veterans; her tour was titled “Honoring our Forgotten Heroes: Our Nation’s Homeless Veterans.” As her year progressed, Henry developed a full-scale platform that encompassed not only homelessness concerns but also healthcare, housing, disability and veterans’ benefits. Over the last 14 years, Henry has continued her efforts nationwide by establishing the Heather French Foundation for Veterans, Inc., focusing on community outreach to help better educate young and old alike about programs available to assist veterans and to help increase patriotism in younger generations.
Prior to Henry’s presentation, Florida State Representative W. Gregory “Greg” Steube – a decorated veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom – discussed the Florida GI Bill, which became law in March 2014.
“As one of the first organizations to respond to the multitude of challenges faced by veterans and their families, Goodwill’s Veterans Program utilizes veterans in leadership positions to aid in easing the transition back into non-military employment,” said Goodwill Manasota board chair Steve Boone. “Goodwill was thrilled to have such prominent speakers at the Legacy Breakfast – the Commissioner and especially Representative Steube, who also serves on Goodwill’s Veterans Task Force. Thanks to creative partnerships, Goodwill has created a seamless case management system that supports each veteran’s unique strengths and needs regarding housing, family, education and other challenges while helping to develop more self-sufficient, productive members of society.”
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. In 2013, we served more than 16,000 people, placed 537 people in jobs and assisted 329 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $81.3 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted 37 million pounds out of the landfill. For more information, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org.