No way, no how were Yvette Williams-Lawson and Brenda Twyman-Neely ready to retire. The two women want to find jobs that can take advantage of their years of expertise – serving respectively in the US Army and Air Force, followed by careers in the public and corporate arenas.
And the 11th Annual Paychecks for Patriots Job Fair on Nov. 9 was where the friends, dressed for success in chic black suits, figured they might find what they’re looking for. More than 100 candidates – veteran and civilian – thought so as well and were eager to meet with representatives from 17 veteran friendly businesses.
“I came because she came,” Williams-Lawson said with a laugh, referring to her neighbor at On Top of the World. Twyman-Neely, who moved to OTOW from Tennessee in June, said that after four years as an Inventory Management Specialist in the Air Force, followed by 21 years with the Miller Brewing Company she had “a lot of good left in me yet” – and endless hours on the pickleball court wouldn’t cut it.
“I’m a people person, I like to talk to people,” she said. “I might be interested in working with children. I have patience: I’m a grandmother, mom, and wife so I know about organization and time-management.”
Emmanuel Perez also knows about organization and time-management. The 24-year-old recently moved to Ocala from Puerto Rico where he is finishing his second degree – the first, in civil engineering from the Universidad de University of Puerto Rico and the second in environmental science from the Universidad Politecnica de Puerto Rico (University of PR and Polytechnic University of PR).
On top of that, Perez has four years’ experience as a paralegal in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and circuit courts in Boston, Miami and Washington, DC.
He hopes to find a hybrid position, working remotely part of the time, and plans to go to law school, specializing in intellectual property, before earning an MBA.
“My Dad is a US veteran and he recommended that I come here,” Perez said after meeting with several employers. “It’s been a very good experience and I’m following up with several businesses.”
Whether recruiters consider him a “purple squirrel” i.e., a perfect hire, or a “unicorn,” someone whose resume shines with ideal qualifications, Perez may indeed be a “rockstar” – a high-performing candidate who is ready to groove to the beat of a company’s mission.
Lori McKenzie, talent acquisition specialist for the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners, was on her own mission to “meet candidates, spread the word about Citrus County and explain about our positions.”
McKenzie said she was pleased to have taken a lot of resumes, including from two candidates who had already applied in advance of the job fair.
“The turnout is amazing,” she said. “Last year, unfortunately, I missed it, so I wanted to be sure to be here this time … We try to cover as many veterans as possible. We definitely have employees from Marion County.”
As if on cue, a recent transplant who lives on Southwest State Road 200, stopped by and asked where Citrus County was, and McKenzie was happy to fill him in.
Brad Luhellier, maintenance manager for Atomic Transport, manned a table along with representatives from Orlando and Chattanooga, Tenn., where the company is based.
Atomic Transport has been in Marion County for just about a year and Luhellier said the Paychecks for Patriots offered the opportunity to meet a steady stream of job candidates as well as get to know other employers.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said of the event. “So far, it’s been nonstop, we haven’t sat down yet. We’re getting a lot of interest.”
Henry Ayala, retired US army and CareerSource CLM’s local veteran employment representative (LVER), said the event was “one of the best Paychecks for Patriots Job Fairs I have seen since I’ve been here.”
Ayala, who coordinated the job fair with members of the CareerSource CLM team, said “it was an honor to meet and welcome so many veterans and family members who came to the event. There are no words that describes the joy I had while seeing so many people’s faces filled with happiness and a sense hope.”
He said he appreciated the businesses that took part, adding, “I’m sure they understand the importance and benefits of hiring Veterans.”
Our thanks to the following businesses that took part: Atomic Transport, AutoZone, Chick-fil-A, Citrus County Board of County Commissioners, City of Ocala, FedEx Ground, Fidelity Manufacturing, Florida Department of Corrections, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, Marion County Public Schools, On Top of the World, Right At Home – Nature Coast, The Salvation Army, Two Men and a Truck, US Social Security Administration, World Equestrian Center and Zero Hour Life Center.
Thanks also to US Social Security Administration and the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs on hand to assist veterans with claims and other services.
CareerSource CLM’s Paychecks for Patriots was held in tandem with similar hiring events scheduled throughout the month in other CareerSource Florida regions. The hiring events are presented in partnership with the Florida National Guard, Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and FloridaCommerce, formerly the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. CareerSource CLM’s job was also supported by Ocala’s SunTran, Inverness-based BIVOUAC Veteran’s News, and the Marion County Public Library System.
Those unable to attend Paychecks for Patriots may apply for open positions online at www.employflorida.com. A special employment portal of information and resource links for Florida veterans is also available at https://veteran.employflorida.com
In addition, CareerSource CLM offers Priority of Service year-round to veterans and eligible spouses at all CareerSource CLM career centers. Fee-free staff assistance, job referral and placement, resources and other employment services are available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Career Centers in Ocala, Lecanto and Chiefland.
You can learn more about our Veterans Services by visiting careersourceclm.com/candidates/job-search/veterans-services or by calling 800-434-JOBS, ext. 2225 or ext. 1713.
Story by Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC, CareerSource CLM’s director of communications and a Florida Certified Workforce Professional. Photos by Danielle Veenstra, CareerSource CLM’s digital marketing manager.
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is a member of CareerSource Florida and a proud partner of the American Job Center network. CareerSource CLM is supported by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other agencies as part of awards totaling $6.9 million (revised annually). CareerSource CLM is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities and in Spanish. All voice telephone numbers listed above may be reached by persons using TTY/TDD equipment via the Florida Relay Service at 711. For accommodations, call 800-434-5627, ext. 7878 or e-mail [email protected]. Please make request at least three business days in advance. Stay up-to-date by engaging with CSCLM on Facebook, Jobs352 and/or LinkedIn.