In 2014, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs began partnering with the nonprofit organization Tech for Troops in Richmond, Virginia. Tech for Troops’ mission is to eradicate Veteran homelessness and poverty by bridging the digital divide for U.S. Veterans in need through gifting refurbished computers and providing opportunities to develop their computer skills. Tech for Troops has three programs: IT Training, Technology Reuse, and Computer Recycling.
The IT Training program offers free hands-on training for low income or unemployed Veterans to learn computer skills. Training options include “Basic Computer Literacy Skills” while plans are underway to open an “On The Job Training” room in Richmond with a laser projector, drop down screens and TVs for Veterans to receive guided hands on experience for computer networking, cyber security and basic computer hardware use. This year, Tech for Troops provided training for more than 75 Veterans in Richmond, 100 in Wisconsin, and approximately 70 in West Virginia.
Tech for Troops’ Computer Reuse program accepts donated computers and equipment from organizations and individuals. Equipment that is still usable is refurbished and given to qualifying Veterans so they can access the internet, create a resume, and apply for jobs. Equipment that cannot be refurbished is taken apart and recycled in a responsible manner through the organization’s Computer Recycling program. Many parts can be sold to earn money for Tech for Troops.
Tech for Troops’ President and Executive Director, Mark Casper, is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. He says the Computer Reuse program has already benefited a number of homeless Veterans and their families. “We are extremely blessed to have multiple corporations donating laptops,” Casper said. “FEMA gave us 3,000, and we are now down to 200. Our goal is expand our ‘equipment ask’ to government and corporations so we can eradicate Veteran homelessness and poverty.”
According to Casper, Tech for Troops is on pace to give away 700 laptops in 2018 — and not just in Virginia. The organization’s primary goal is to give computers to as many Veterans as possible to help them secure employment.
In this day and age, basic technology skills are essential to professional success. Tech for Troops recognizes this by helping unemployed Veterans develop the computer skills and confidence they need to enter the civilian workforce.
Tony Hubbard is a Veteran who benefited immensely from the Tech for Troops program. Hubbard was homeless for two weeks following a move from Florida to Virginia, until Casper hired him to work for Tech for Troops. Hubbard had been a communications system specialist in the Army for five years and was an ideal candidate to be the lead technician at Tech for Troops.
Hubbard also recently started a temporary job at Pfizer, a large pharmaceutical company, doing exactly the kind of work he does for Tech for Troops.
“Information technology has been a godsend and helped me out tremendously,” Hubbard said. “Any Veteran in the IT field looking for an internship should apply at Tech for Troops; my job here fills me with the pride I haven’t had since I left the military.”
By providing Veterans with computers and training in how to use them, Tech for Troops is bridging the gap between technical education and job attainment. To help Veterans in need or to learn more about Tech for Troops, visit the website at https://techfortroops.org/.
- Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
- Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
Mrs. Rhonda E. Barnes-Bell
Mrs. Barnes-Bell has served as the Vocational Development Specialist for VA since 2014. She began her tenure at VA 25 years ago as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Since then, Mrs. Barnes-Bell has served in numerous other VA roles including being a Certified Mentor (CM) for over 11 years and a Transformational Coach for four years.