Art Garroway characterizes some of his ideas as “crazy,” but the veterans he is helping find employment say he is bringing sanity to their lives.
“I don’t know why or how he does it, but to have someone in your corner, even for a brief time, makes you feel like you’re not alone,” said John Gabler, a 42-year-old Marine Corps veteran who served in Kuwait in 1990 and lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Garroway, 61, of University Park started a website, MarylandVeteransNeedJobs.com, about a year ago, in the hope of helping some of the 14,000 Maryland veterans who were out of work. However, he ended up getting requests from veterans across the country. Garroway estimated he has helped about 100, although he’s not always able to get them the kind of jobs they originally seek.
A part-time employee of Ashburn, Va.-based Ace Photo, Garroway said he had been reading about homeless veterans and figured he could help out. His grandson is a flight medic for the U.S. Army currently serving in the Middle East, and he said he could imagine how service members might feel coming back to a tough job market.
Although he’s never done job searching for others, Garroway made a LinkedIn account and started reaching out to veterans groups on the professional networking site.
“I’m good at finding things online, and that’s an extra pair of eyes looking for jobs for [veterans],” Garroway said.
When Gabler reached out to Garroway for help in December, he said he’d never really looked for a job before.
“I had to acclimate myself,” said Gabler, who eventually found a job in software sales. “The first day, Art had 15 different jobs for me to look at, and the next day, he had another 15.”
Based on what Garroway has seen during the past year, he said, he thinks the military is not adequately preparing veterans for what the job market is like when they leave the service.
“A lot of them are flabbergasted that they were out of the military for two months and they still hadn’t found a job,” Garroway said. “They don’t know what the outside world is like.”
The state’s Local Veteran Employment Representatives work with veterans at One-Stop Career Centers to assist with job searching, Summar Goodman, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Unemployment rates for Maryland veterans in 2011 were lower, at 5.9 percent, than the national rate of 8.3 percent of veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Maryland unemployment overall usually runs one to two percentage points under the national average, according to the state department of labor.
Richard Wasserman, a 55-year-old veteran in South Orange, N.J., said that often what happens at the job fairs, or when he approached large employers looking for a job, he is told to fill out an application online, and no preference is given to veterans.
“I think, why did I get all dressed up and go to this thing?” Wasserman said of job fairs.
Wasserman, a logistician who has been unemployed since January when he went from active duty to an Army reservist, reached out to Garroway about a month ago but hasn’t found the right job yet.
“I think what [Garroway] is doing is great,” Wasserman said. “He hasn’t found me anything, but at least he’s actually doing something.”
The crazy part of Garroway’s plan, he said, is his idea to recover used furniture — he said he read somewhere that Americans throw away 9 million tons of furniture each year — and pay vets to refurbish and sell the furniture. It wouldn’t pay much, he said, maybe $10 to $15 per hour, but would be enough to tide veterans over until they can find full-time employment.
An enterprise like that is a long way off, Garroway said, mostly because it would require funding and a full-time effort from him, but he has a business plan all drawn up for a full-fledged nonprofit if money were to become available.