AmeriCorps VISTA Willie Heineke, who will soon be finishing his term, discusses the great work that he has been able to do with U.S. Veterans Initiative during his service year.
For my term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at U.S. Veterans Initiative in Prescott, AZ (U.S.VETS), my top priority has been to assist in addressing veteran homelessness here in North Central Arizona by creating and managing a culinary training program entitled, Culinary “U.” After a few months into my term of service, Culinary “U” became fully operational within U.S.VETS’ transitional housing program. The reasoning for creating Culinary “U” is three fold: clients can enroll in order to learn how to cook for themselves, they can enroll in order to pursue a job in the food service industry, and at any given time, there are 100 available food service jobs in Prescott alone.
The first two reasons why Culinary “U” was started was to address veteran homelessness by providing life/marketable skills that can be used to enhance their transition from homelessness to healthy, civilian life. The latter reasoning for starting Culinary “U” speaks to how relevant the program is to the community. Local businesses are in constant need for competent employees, and that is exactly what Culinary “U” offers: a competent, and ready workforce. Moreover, among the clients that have enrolled in the program to pursue food service, all have done so. So when I take a step back and look at what my term of service has done for the Prescott community, I see a brand new opportunity for a severely jeopardized population to reintegrate to a community by enabling them to secure jobs and life skills that are needed within the community.