BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — After nearly 30 years in the military, Elizabeth Siplin was ready to return to life as a civilian. The transition was often full of challenges, and she realized that there was a need to provide veterans with assistance as they return to civilian life. Hoping to find a way to help, she applied for an MLK Day of Service grant.
The grant, funded by the Florida Legislature, awards organizations with community service projects that encourage members of the community to honor Dr. King by volunteering on or around the MLK Holiday. Siplin’s project was chosen for funding.
“The goal of our project is to bring in veterans of all ages and give them interviewing tips, resume advice and career scope assessments to see what they are good at and what they like to do,” stated Siplin.
After a long military career, returning to life as a civilian was a lot harder than she thought it would be.
“There are often a lot of challenges,” Siplin admitted. “Sometimes you don’t really understand what that transition will look like. There is just a different language we speak in the military, and you have to know how to translate that to civilian life.”
Siplin, a retired military police officer, said for many, taking a military skills and translating it into a career in the private sector can be challenging to do.
“I was a military police officer, so at least that translates into law enforcement,” she said. “But for soldiers in the infantry, they were trained to fight. But there are other skills that they can pull out and use to get a job, and I don’t think they realize that.”
Although Siplin admits that in the last few years the military has improved efforts to assist military vets with the transition to civilian life, she said there is still a large population of vets who retired or left the service before those programs began.
“There is a gap there,” she said. “A lot of vets don’t understand the services that are available.”
The Veterans Job Fair and Workshop will take place Friday, Jan. 18 from 9-2 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Center. Siplin said she believes the workshop is something that reflects the dedication and commitment to the community Dr. King believed in.
“Dr. King was all about giving back and empowering the community to do better and make things better for others,” Siplin said. “This workshop is just a reflection of that, of how to give back.”
With the grant funding she received, Siplin was able to purchase supplies for vets who attend the event, including a book just for military veterans full of information on how to make the transition to civilian life. Each attendee will also receive a briefcase.
“I have been to a lot of conferences, and you don’t get the right takeaways,” Siplin said. “I wanted to have more than just trinkets to give away.”
While the focus of this event is to assist veterans, Siplin said the workshop is open to all.
“Anyone who needs the job skills assistance can come out and see what is available to them,” she said.
For more information, email Siplin at Empactsolutions@outlook.com.