As we all know, Lakewood is a military community – one that's been home to generations of military personnel, families and veterans of what’s now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
So it was only fitting that on Friday, July 31, Lakewood became Ground Zero for the official launch of the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI) in Washington, a national effort by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to increase the number of educational and employment opportunities for veterans and their families at the community level.
Mayor Don Anderson was one of the featured speakers at the event that also featured Lakewood Mayor Emeritus Bill Harrison and Lourdes Alvarado Ramos, Director of the Washington State Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
Fittingly, the event took place at RP/6 , a Lakewood-based center that serves transitioning members of the military and their families by providing a centralized location for resources and various services. Not only did Friday’s event mark the launch of VECI, but it also recognized a Memorandum of Understanding between RP/6 and the VA to help veterans and their families.
The Tacoma-Seattle area became the 12th community in the U.S. to officially launch the VECI, which involves the assignment of an Economic Liaison/Consultant who will collaborate with government leaders, businesses, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to help build a network of support and resources for their families.
In Lakewood, the Economic Liaison is Dan Pass, who will work out of the RP/6 office at 9881 Bridgeport Way SW. His goals are to:
- Raise awareness of the benefits of investing in veterans
- Equip employers with information and tools that will help them hire and retain veteran employees
- Work with community partners and policy experts to find ways to overcome education and career challenges that veterans and their families face
- Encourage educational institutions to help veterans use their education benefits to gain the skills they need for career success
- Make connections among the numerous community organizations that serve veterans and their families to maximize their impact
With Pass’ assignment encompassing the entire Puget Sound area, “you’re going to find me scurrying around the area working on behalf of veterans,” he said Friday.
Pass said the VA will place liaisons in 25 communities across this year and another 25 in 2016.