The Road Home puts returning veterans straight to work in the restoration industry

Once a soldier finished his tour of duty, and returns home from combat, he or she becomes a veteran. I imagine it’s a wonderful feeling to come back to the life you left behind, yet I also imagine it can be a bit daunting as well. Perhaps, it might be downright terrifying to think about what your next step in life will be. Rejoining the general population requires a job, and those jobs require skills. Veterans might be severely overqualified for some positions, while being drastically under-qualified for others. Couple that fact with our sub-par employment figures, and you have a very real situation where folks are coming home to find there’s no work opportunities waiting for them.

There are some out there, however, that are finding new ways of lending support to our returning veterans.

American Collectors Insurance has joined forces with a network of automotive restoration shops to lend a helping hand, as well as a wrench or two. The program is called The Road Home, and it connects automotive-minded veterans with restoration shops eager to help the men and women of the military. Keep reading to see how the program works, and to read my quick interview with Jill Bookman, CEO of American Collectors Insurance.

The Road Home puts the interested veteran in touch with a participating shop. The shop and the veteran agree on a short-term commitment level, and engage each other in a manner that works for the veteran. This can mean basic social engagement, hands-on training, or full-blown paid employment.

Since my father is a veteran (as well as my grandfather, and a few of my uncles), and I love pretty much any excuse to talk about cars, I’m rather intrigued by the idea of this program. I reached out to American Collectors Insurance to get more insight on The Road Home:

Hooniverse: When did it start?
Jill Bookman: The Road Home officially launched February 14, 2012.

H: How did the program come to life?
JB: The concept for the program was the brainchild of David Traver Adolphus, an automotive journalist. David and Al Navarro, the co-founder of American Collectors’ ad agency, Mint Advertising, are friends. When Al heard David’s idea, and they both recognized that it needed some significant hours & financial backing to help get the program moving in the right direction, they pitched the idea to American Collectors.

We have worked with military partners for years, and have many customers who are themselves veterans, so it really seemed like a very natural fit. It’s a worthwhile project that benefits everyone it touches – the veterans get some much-needed help adjusting to civilian life and job placement, and restoration shops get access to potential employees who have strong work ethics and proven leadership and team-player abilities. It’s really a win-win on all levels.

H: What has the response been like in the restoration community?
JB: Since the Valentine’s Day launch, we’ve been blown away by the positive reaction among the restoration AND veteran communities. We shared this with our customers and agent partners first, and quickly received many responses asking how our customers could get involved. When The Road Home was introduced publicly, not only did we get positive responses, but we also got a number of additional great ideas. For instance, we received several suggestions to engage clubs in the social aspect of The Road Home, since that is something that clubs do very well!

We’re thrilled that this is a program that everyone can support – either by being directly involved in the program, or referring friends and shops and telling people about the program. It seems like a very grassroots type of activity that everyone feels good about participating in.

H: How many veterans have applied to be a part of the program, and how many restoration companies have as well?
JB: The program just officially launched this week, so we are currently in the process of matching up the first round of vets. The interest among the vet and auto restoration community is much greater than we could have ever expected so we’re looking forward to expanding both our auto restoration shop database and bank of interested vets.

H: Do you train the veterans to restore the cars, or do they already have a strong automotive background?
JB: Vets do not have to have an automotive background prior to being matched with an auto shop. Automotive experience will be gained or expanded through their apprenticeship.

H: Is there one branch of the military that seems to send more participants your way, or is it an even distribution?
JB: So far there’s been even distribution.

H: How do veterans reach out and apply?
JB: Just visit: http://www.theroadhomeusa.org/ to register for placement in The Road Home’s network of automotive restoration host facilities.

Special thanks to Jill Bookman, CEO of American Collectors Insurance for taking a moment to chat.

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