Greenwich’s Interstate + Lakeland Lumber ‘pledges’ to help veterans

A program dedicated to helping veterans get to work now has support from town.

Interstate + Lakeland Lumber became the first Greenwich-based company to sign up for Pledge2Vets.com, a hiring platform launched in June by Eco Building Products, a supplier of green building products and services.

At a recent meeting, President of Interstate + Lakeland Lumber Sheldon Kahan and Eco CEO Steve Conboy discussed their new website to spread the word about the program and get people, who are both looking for jobs and who have jobs to offer, involved. Two former Marines and current Eco employees, Nathaniel Bruce and Darryl Dickerson, joined them. Greenwich is one of several towns and cities the former military men will visit to garner support for their project.

“We’re not entitled,” Mr. Bruce said, “but it only made sense for companies like Interstate Lumber who’ve been successful for so long to work with veterans to continue that success in the next generations.”

 

By signing up on Pledge2Vets.com, companies signal that they want to give veterans a chance to work. Veteran unemployment continues to be a national issue as soldiers return from recent combat , and this state is not immune. According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, the unemployment rate for soldiers from Connecticut is at 9.4%, higher than unemployment for the entire state.

“All these guys want is an opportunity,” said Mr. Kahan, whose family has operated the company out of Fairfield and Westchester counties for 90 years. He added that posting jobs on the website would display patriotism and give back to veterans.

The website allows job seekers to search by state or type of work. Mr. Conboy maintains that promoting the site is a “passion” rather than a part of the job for himself and his employees.

“All of us, in our everyday lives, ask American companies to get behind vets,” he said. “We need to give them the chance to win their jobs and this is our way of helping.”

He added that applying through the platform does not guarantee a position. The ads currently listed end with: “American Veterans urged to apply.” That means they have to be qualified for the positions like any other applicant. What this does is give them an opportunity to have a chance and not just be lost in the shuffle.

As a part of the Pledge2Vets program, Mr. Conboy first hired Nathaniel Bruce who left the Marines after 12 years of service. Mr. Bruce had trouble finding employment despite his experience, which includes a degree in fire science, service as a firefighter and teaching technology and military science. He later brought on Darryl Dickerson, a fellow Marine with similar credentials, to the team.

Mr. Bruce described two problems that veterans like himself face in finding employment. The first is finding the right tools for the search. He remembered sending his résumé through various online databases and receiving more spam than job offers.

The second problem, he claims, is finding that the government does not do all it can to help. Mr. Bruce said that due to “bureaucracy,” veterans’ problems can’t be solved fast enough. He acknowledged that large changes come at a slow pace.

“It’s simple — we’re not going to rely on the government to do this,” Mr. Bruce said, “especially this year with the election in November.”

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