BRADENTON, FL – During its game against the Palm Beach Cardinals on July 3, the Bradenton Marauders presented an Independence Day celebration with a true patriotic flair. The festivities included a patriotic jersey auction benefiting Goodwill Manasota’s Veterans Services Program and a ceremonial first pitch thrown out by Army veteran John Coakley, who was helped through Goodwill’s veterans’ program. Coakley is a success story, illustrating how people can be helped with effective case management, organizations working together without duplication of services, and the will and desire to make a positive difference in the community.
“Goodwill Manasota is so proud to be able to honor and contribute to the men and women who served our country,” Margie Genter, vice president of mission services. “We thank the Marauders for providing us with this wonderful opportunity to let the community know how they can help veterans and their family members re-acclimate to civilian life.”
Staffed by veterans, Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program provides full case management and vocational services that address barriers to employment, disabilities, mental health issues, housing, education and training. The program, which was created in 2013, also helps veterans navigate the wide array of available programs and to secure the benefits to which they are entitled.
John Coakley is a Sarasota native – he was born at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in 1969 and is a graduate of Booker High School. After graduation, he worked at the Ringling Publix until he joined the Army. His first choice was the Marines but he missed passing the test by just a few points. Not wanting to wait until he was allowed to take the test again, he joined the Army, saying, “I had to get out of the hood – I saw myself going the wrong way.”
After serving in Operation Desert Storm, he got out and began working at various jobs, including a nine-year stint at Wal-Mart. He has suffered from various ailments since his discharge, including pneumonia, walking pneumonia, and bloody noses when he suffered from colds that began in boot camp. He was often unemployed and was even sometimes homeless.
Coakley admits that he has not been able to receive all of the help he needs to address his health issues or PTSD. He has had to move a lot, noting that he could only secure housing with “slumlords.”
As time went on, someone told him about the Veterans Affairs “Stand Down for Vets” program. Once he was connected, he tried to get help with the things he needed. He also learned about the Operation Military Assistance Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service; this program offers case management, mentoring and support group services, and financial assistance for housing and other urgent needs to very low-income veterans and their families. Last October, he sought help at Goodwill Manasota’s Veterans Services Program, where he received life skills training, gas cards, and transportation assistance. In mid-June, the program helped to connect him with a great job with Military Cut Sarasota Lawn Care Service, a company that prides itself on employing veterans.
His next objective is to find a house to rent or own for himself and his family. He says that when he threw the ball at the Marauders game, he was throwing it for his father, John, and for his brother John J. Duncan, who suffered a heart attack in 2017 and is now recovering.
For more information about Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program, go to experiencegoodwill.org or call (941) 355-2721, ext. 451.
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.