Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, along with Lauren Slocum, president of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and Karen Jedson of Warwick’s Department of Tourism, want to help military veterans who are thinking about opening a small business.
Yesterday, the women, along with at least 10 organizations, were on hand at the JONAH Community Center in Oakland Beach from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to inform and guide veterans through the steps they need to take to become small business owners during a seminar, “Warwick Means Business for Veterans.” Nearly 50 people attended within the two hours.
Among the guests was Warwick resident and Army veteran Master Sgt. Leonard Brown. He hopes to open his own small business in Warwick in the near future and chatted with Anthony Chrones, a counselor for S.C.O.R.E., a company that assists America’s small business.
“He’s giving me a lot of information,” Brown said of Chrones.
Another Army veteran, Sgt. Anthony Rodrigues, said he enjoyed the event because it taught him a few things he wasn’t aware of. “I’m learning that I may be able to get a loan,” he said.
In fact, venders and lenders, including S.C.O.R.E., Small Business Administration, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and members Congressman Jim Langevin’s office were there to assist veterans and educate them about patriot express loans and other free consulting services.
Greg Gould, a lender relations specialist of Small Business Administration, said events such as this are important for “lots of reasons.”
“It’s good to support our veterans because they support us,” he said. “I think it’s an opportunity to show everyone the recourses that are available and find out ways that we can help.”
His co-worker, Public Information Officer Normand T. Deragon, who served in the military for 31 years, agreed.
“It’s important to do what we can to help veterans,” he said. “It’s well deserved.”
For Vella-Wilkinson, who works full-time for Higher & Hire, an organization that aims to guide individuals to the occupation that best suits them, as well as through job application processes, the event was a success.
“I’m really excited that people came and made a connection,” she said. “This was the first in a series of events that are supportive to veterans of the City of Warwick.”
She said an additional “Warwick Means Business for Veterans” event will again take place in the fall.
Further, another helpful event, “Resumes that Stand at Attention,” will focus on helping veterans compose résumés. That event will be May 18 at Slade’s Business Center at 3280 Post Road in two sessions, the first from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the second from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Also, a job fair, “Hire Our Heroes,” will be May 23 at the Warwick National Guard Armory at 541 Airport Road from 1 to 4 p.m.
In attendance at yesterday’s gathering were Slocum and Jedson; Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono; Father Robert Marciano; Danny Hall, who is planning to run for Ward 5 Councilman; and Mayor Scott Avedisian.
“This is a great partnership between the city, the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the service organizations to talk about what is important in the city and to talk about employment opportunities and how we can solve problems,” Avedisian said. “One thing we’ve learned in the past year is that Camille likes to be a problem solver, and it’s a good thing. She’s identified a number of the issues out there and now we need to make sure we’re connected to the Chamber and our service organizations to solve those issues and move forward.”