New chamber of commerce actively building network to connect veterans with Idaho services
Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce offers workforce, education, housing workshops to military members, spouses
From right to left, Jose DeLeon of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Trish Walker of the Idaho Black Community Alliance, Martha Martinez of the South Central Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mari Ramos of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mindi Anderson of the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Yori dela Rosa of the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce and Jessica Koefod of the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce attend the 2022 State of Women in Business lunch. (Courtesy of Jessica Koefod)
Workforce connection. Family and wellness help. Education. Housing. Entrepreneurship resources.
These are five pillars of the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce, a 501(c)3 nonprofit established in August 2020 that aims to connect active and retired veterans to their Idaho communities.
Just this year, the veterans chamber has helped 147 military members connect with services such as job networking, GI Bill assistance, VA home loan guidance, and more, in the Gem State.
For Mindi Anderson, executive director and founder of the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce, that work is just beginning.
How the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce helps military members, spouses
Anderson, who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force after 22 years of active duty, said she founded the chamber because of her own life experience.
“I’ve seen a lot of examples, I’ve seen a lot of articles and a lot of research that talk about how military members, when they separate or retire from the military, lose part of their identity because they don’t have that affiliation,” she said. “So we go through that identity crisis.”
Veterans should never feel disconnected from the resources that they’ve rightfully earned, she said.
Jessica Koefod, a financial adviser for Thivent who also serves on the chamber’s board, agrees.
A 14-year Air Force veteran herself, Koefod said as military members move frequently to be stationed around the country – and the world – it can be hard for veterans to know where to turn for help. Veterans and Guardsmen may not know who to contact for things such as job placements, rental assistance or how to financially support veteran-owned businesses because they may not have lived in Idaho for long, she said. It can also be hard for veterans’ spouses to land jobs themselves, depending on their own skills and expertise.
They may feel like others have earned or deserve help before themselves, she added.
“Really what our job is, is navigation services,” Koefod said. “There are a ton of organizations that serve veterans in a multitude of different capacities, but nobody really knows how to access them. We want to be the connecting piece. Our mantra is ‘together is better.’”
The chamber, which offers free memberships to any veteran, family member and veteran resource organization, is financially supported by non-military memberships, sponsors, local businesses and state and federal grants, including a two-year, $282,000 Workforce Development Council Innovation Grant and two-year, $150,000 Small Business Administration Community Navigator Grant.
One glance at the chamber’s website gives a sense of just how busy organizers are and just how big their network is becoming.
On July 21, for example, the chamber is hosting a workshop for military members and their spouses on how to secure credit and alternative funding for starting a business, as well as one-on-one business counseling.
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At 9 a.m. on the third Thursday of every month, the chamber holds a workshop for employers to learn more about the Department of Defense’s Skillbridge internship program, which connects soon-to-be released military members with potential employment.
Past events include pathways to apprenticeship workshops, tax credit workshops and workshops on how to build your online social network to land jobs.
Chamber launches inaugural gala to help keep memberships, services free for veterans
A new chamber event will help keep those resources free to those in the military and their families, as well as financially support another Idaho veteran-oriented charity: The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Anderson said.
The inaugural Military Heritage Gala will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St. The event will feature a guest speaker who is a combat veteran, a live auction, dinner and dancing. Those interested are encouraged to RSVP to Anderson at [email protected]
“The Military Heritage Gala is open to all Idahoans and the military community,” Anderson said. “The vision and purpose is to create an event that brings both communities together.”
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