SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – A dedication to helping others and passion for giving back is what CJ Bannister is all about. Bannister, a veteran who serves as the director of Goodwill Manasota’s Veterans Services Program, was honored on May 3 by Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of the Suncoast during its 5th annual Tribute to Veterans Service to Community Awards Luncheon.
Bannister, who was nominated for the honor by Sarasota County Veterans Services, was hired in 2014 to lead Goodwill’s efforts to provide services to returning veterans, who face heightened risks of unemployment, personal problems, and homelessness. The program helps eliminate barriers to employment and provides opportunities for higher-paying positions for veterans and their families as well as connects veterans with crucial social services and support to help them reintegrate into their families, communities, and jobs.
The two organizations partner to assist veterans in our community: Goodwill Manasota’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) works very closely with JFCS’s Operation Military Assistance Program (OMAP). The HVRP, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, was started in 2015 in response to the growing needs of the local population of veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. While the ultimate goal is to help veterans transition into employment, Goodwill understands that many veterans need basic assistance before they are ready to get back to work. OMAP offers case management and financial assistance to very low-income veterans and their families who are homeless or on the verge.
Prior to working at Goodwill, Bannister was a Goodwill Ambassador, a community volunteer who supports the work of the organization, and also served on its Board of Directors. She participates on Goodwill’s Veteran’s Task Force and assists numerous veterans’ organizations throughout the community.
Bannister served in the U.S. Air Force, where she worked as a Crew Chief for three years and subsequently cross-trained to be a paralegal and worked with the JAG for the remainder of her service. She earned the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSgt) and earned many awards and medals; she ended her military career as a non-commissioned officer in 2001.
After leaving the Air Force, she attended International College (now known as Hodges University) in Naples, Fla. and also worked full time as a paralegal. She began a career as a financial advisor in 2007, helping individuals with investment and financial needs and building a successful business until May of 2014, when she left the financial services industry.
The other veterans recognized were Don Courtney, Todd Hughes, George P. Tracy, Sr., and Lee Wetherington. The honorees were selected for their ability to inspire patriotism, provide service to others and offer hope to veterans while demonstrating collaboration, leadership, and integrity. Awards were presented by Troy C. Scott, COL, US Army (Ret) and Heidi Brown, president/CEO, JFCS.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2016, Goodwill Manasota served 28,207 people, placed 755 people in jobs and assisted 240 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 40 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org.