In May of 2015, Shawn Dowling, former VA Homeless Program Coordinator, encouraged Curt Behlow, VA Community Employment Coordinator (CEC), to organize a community hiring event for homeless Veterans. Curt is a Marine Corps Veteran and co-founder of Hire MI Vet (HMV). Curt reached out and established a steering committee consisting of Rebecca Flatt, Michigan Ability Partners and the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP); April LaRock, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System; Colleen Mallory, MI Works Southeast; and Beverly Conatser, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. By July 2015, the official Hire MI Vet (HMV) logo, name, and mission statement was established. The mission statement states that Hire MI Vet is a community initiative that helps Veterans gain meaningful employment.
Curt visited the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor to seek additional help for the steering committee. In August of 2015, Don Deatrick from Rotary was accepted into the steering committee. Don lead the effort that enabled Rotary to sponsor the first hiring event and he also lead the coordination of Prep Day, a day spent at MI Works helping Veterans update resumes; obtain interview skills; receive haircuts; and preparing elevator speeches to prepare for the hiring event.
Through collaboration and shared determination, the first Hire MI Vet (HMV) hiring event was held on November 3, 2015, on the Washtenaw Community College campus. The initiative was a resounding success that aimed to secure and expand employment opportunities for all Veterans including homeless Veterans and Veterans at risk of homelessness by creating meaningful community relationships and exposing employers to the diverse skill sets and talents of these Veterans.
As time progressed, new leaders emerged, adding fresh perspectives and expanding the organization’s reach. By 2017, Javon Gatewood skillfully led and coordinated the website team, ensuring that Hire MI Vet’s online presence matched its commitment to excellence. Meanwhile, Sayaka Matsumoto took charge of the marketing team, harnessing the power of communication to spread the message far and wide. Collaborating, Barbara Hauswirth and Colleen Mallory worked to secure the attendance of numerous employers.
With the establishment of the steering committee, Hire MI Vet took an ambitious step forward, moving beyond the confines of an annual hiring event. Recognizing the need for sustained support, the organization launched an employment Mentorship Program and employer networking events known as “Connect the Veteran.” Through these initiatives, Hire MI Vet aimed to provide ongoing guidance and facilitate enduring connections that would empower Veterans on their journey to meaningful and sustainable careers.
In April of 2018, after much persistence and dedication, Don Deatrick, co-founder, and co-chair of the steering committee, was the driving force that established Hire MI Vet as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.
Today, as the organization continues forward, Hire MI Vet stands as hope and support for unemployed or underemployed Veterans seeking meaningful employment. It remains resolute in its pursuit of excellence, extending quality services that empower Veterans to realize their full potential in the professional sphere. The indelible mark left by Hire MI Vet is a testament to the collective brilliance, collaboration, and passion of the volunteers who united under a shared purpose, transforming dreams into reality and illuminating the lives of Veterans along the way.