A Vision for Veterans

A Vision for Veterans

By Michelle McConnell

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For far too many of Americans veterans, it’s an unfortunate fact of life to be left without access to the programs that would most benefit them, either through lack of resources, or lack of information about programs in their area. Thankfully, in Norman, OK, the wave of awareness for, and goodwill towards its veterans keeps gathering momentum.  Envision Success, Inc. is creating distinctive programs, which are standing out to support veterans, and the community.  Their contributions aren’t really being talked about— however, they should be!

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Photo courtesy of Envision Success Inc.

Ultimately the goal at Envision Success is seeking to help veterans transition from military to civilian life, the center offers a variety of activities designed to help individuals build for themselves important dimensions of success, including: career readiness, financial strength, physical and emotional wellness, as well as life and community skills.  http://www.envisionsuccessok.org/#Dimensions

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Photo Courtesy of Envision Success – Thank you DAV Chapter 61 for sponsoring these flags for Envision Success. They look great and what a wonderful way to honor our brothers and sisters.

 

The Executive Director of Envision Success, Gail Wilcox, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)– as well as herself, a US Air Force veteran.   As you take a tour the facility, there is a definite sense of Wilcox’s passion and sincere desire to help her former service members with their individual transitions.   She notes “Most of us who have done it on our own, found out it took a little while.”

 

When asked the inspiration to create the program she said, “I wanted to start this program because I went through my own extended transition period including discovering my military job did not translate well to a civilian job.  I discovered other veterans also had challenges transitioning back to civilian life. Since getting out of the Air Force in 1992 I have received education, training, and experience which enables me to help others.”

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Photo by Michelle McConnell

The center’s main focal point is on building employ-ability through job-related skills, such as resume reviews, interviewing proficiency, career coaching, and other such basic items.  With this in mind, Envision Success utilizes a group effort to further increase stability for the participants.  The goal is to be supported by a team, including a Licensed or Certified behavioral health provider, a mentor, and a career coaching specialist.   Additional services Envision Success provides: Victim Impact Panel, Continuing Education programs, counseling and abuse assistance resources, Veterans along with the likelihood individuals will continue to engage in and support assistance.   The center offers these as part of the career coaching: includes career related assessments, as well as, exploring the options to get into the desired career.

 

When asked why the center chose these forms of assistance, Wilcox pointed out that “these are programs that fill a need in this community and help financially support Envision Success. The Continuing Education is for other Counselors and includes a variety of training topics including some related to counseling veterans.  These are not directly related to supporting veterans.”

 

But the Envision crew doesn’t stop there in their quest for the betterment of our veterans. They have begun the process of establishing a full-service commercial kitchen, complete with booths and wait staff, to incorporate the hands-on experience needed for true expertise, in the food service operations industry.  Once up and running, this kitchen will be instrumental in helping sustain and support the expansion of other critical programs within the organization.  And in addition, a coffee shop to relax and even a resale/consignment gift shop.

The goal is full-on immersion business training.  Wilcox commented that “Envision Success wants to have some basic classes in these business areas and give hands on experience.  Not a full certification like they would get from votech but an opportunity to try it out without a full commitment.  We can then help with program selection, enrollment and financial aid options.”

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A computer lab is also in the works. Upon its completion, will allow for basic computer education, and other forms of testing such as GEDs, certification testing for a variety of professions including the Certification Examinations for Oklahoma Educators™ (CEOE™) Presently, those seeking to obtain their GED’s must make the (45 min-1 hour) drive to either Oklahoma City, or Chickasha, which only adds to the stress and anxiety surrounding such events, and often discourages individuals from attempting to reach their goals.  Wilcox notes that the GED and other testing options are open to everyone, not just veterans.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Envision Success Inc.

For those with a green thumb, there is an herb and vegetable garden on the property as well, to further education regarding produce, and sustainable agriculture.  The garden can even be used as a form of relaxation for those who choose to do so.  Ultimately what’s grown will be used as a source of fresh seasonal items in their kitchen, beginning a journey toward self-sufficiency.

 

Outside of the day-to-day operations, the center hosts game nights. (poker/motorcycle, craft fair) In addition, to Kitting to Relax evenings, American Sign Language (ASL) Basics class, and other community activities. This year Envision Success, Inc will host community activities and fundraisers.   http://www.envisionsuccessok.org/#Activities

 

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June 27th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. the center is hosting their 2nd Annual Norman Summer Nights Community event will taking place.  There will be “Made in Oklahoma” vendors, Food Trucks,  children’s activities, veteran organizations and music come together for a great evening of fun. The center is also  accepting sponsor and vendor applications now!

 

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Photo courtesy of Envision Success Inc.  Photo features – Veteran Mark Holland and Kathie Keeling (another awesome part of Envision Success) at a recent Biker Poker Run to support a new not-for-profits.

 

Mark Holland, a Vietnam Veteran, works for the center as well.  Mark began volunteering with Envision Success about a year ago. Initially, Holland was living in Yukon, and making the drive to Norman at least 4 days a week.  It really put a strain on his limited budget, but he felt it was important enough to make that sacrifice.  Mark then moved to Norman so that he could continue the important work with Envision Success. Holland has been instrumental in significant projects including working to get the Computer Room set up, keeping the centers finances in order, and plan the Biker Poker Run.

 

Kathie Keeling has been working with Envision Success since the inception in 2015, and because of a Federal training program she has been able to increase her participation and contributions to the center.  In addition to running the “Welcome Center” of Envision Success” Keeling is a Massage Therapist and is available by appointment.

 

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Photo by Michelle McConnell

RC Veirs, a Desert Storm veteran who’s found assistance with Envision Success, and has donated his time and resources to the center.  RC Veirs has actually been a resource for us such as helping veterans get connected with work opportunities, the DAV, and benefits.

 

One of the main social hubs of the center, named “Veteran’s Room” by participants in the program, is a multi-purpose room ultimately intended to provide a safe space to just hang out, watch movies and chat with other members of the Envision community.  Complete with a coffee and tea bar, TV, WIFI access, a library, and more.

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Photo courtesy of Envision Success Inc.

 

Another distinctive feature you’ll notice as you stroll through the halls and carefully designed rooms, are the vivid artwork and murals nearly adorning every wall.  Kris Newlind, a Art Therapy Adjunct Instructor, from OU and some of her students donated countless hours of their time and creative talents to the project(s).

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Photo courtesy of Envision Success Inc.

Hannah Blanken (photoed) works on painting military seals, who began working at Envision Success as part of the veterans room mural painters and stayed an extra semester as an intern.  Her work is displayed as you enter the center in hall with inspirational encouragement.  Hannah also helped develop a workshop series on mental health and veterans.  Plus helped introduce Envision Success to an OKC organization (Veterans Recovering Through Fitness). They hosted a fundraiser for us in September.  She now lives in El Paso, TX with her husband,US Army Captain Blanken.

 

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Photo by Michelle McConnell

 

The Women’s mural is a tribute to the brave women who pioneered a path for others like them to achieve higher ranks in the US Armed Forces.  It includes pictures to represent each branch of service as well as various decades of service. Included are two local women and pictures of a WWII pilot and the first native american women in the Marines.

 

The other mural in the room is a time line and reflects the different branches of the service from WWII to today.   It begins with a WWII seaman stationed on the Saratoga, then move through the Korean War era, then soldiers who met in Japan and married.  It continues onto Vietnam, progressing onto Desert Storm, Iran, and Afghanistan.  Each of the lifelike figures are Cleveland County residents or family members, and represent the deep connection to, and the true legacy of veterans in the community.

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Photo by Michelle McConnell

Several of the soldiers represented on the wall are Norman residents, and every image is a depiction of an actual service member. All of the individuals included on the timeline mural are actual veterans and have some connection with Oklahoma, and are known to at least one member of Envision Success, Inc. or the group which painted the mural.

 

Photos by Michelle McConnell

 

When asked about the mural Wilcox said “she wished we could have put many more up there.”  Other individuals will be honored with their photos on a wall in the cafe area.

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Photo by Michelle McConnell

When was asked what support she most wanted to see from the community at large, her response was an immediate “We want people to consider hiring veterans.”  She asks those interested in extending employment offers to any of the program participants please reach out to the center for further details.

 

She went on to describe some of the difficulties facing Envision Success, admitting that, like most 501C3 organizations, getting the funding and manpower to support the center has been a major obstacle.  Currently, the most pressing projects are laying floors in several rooms, and of installation of appliances and furniture.  Unfortunately, though most of materials are ready to go, the lack of assistance with manual labor has complicated and delayed the process.

 

Wilcox really wants veterans and family members… understand that “this is a safe place to hang out, and reconnect.  Come here and at least talk with us, so that it’s not as difficult to do it alone.”   Wilcox went on to say that she’s “spoken with so many individuals in the community who want to support veterans, but don’t know how to go about it.  Envision Success is a concrete way.   They are not part of national organization; this is the only place she’s aware that does what they are doing.  Envision Success is not trying to duplicate that employment offices are doing, or Tinker is doing, just be an extension of it – to help veterans out. Even if a veteran does not need what we’ve talked about, if they are struggling trying to find resource, come here, and if we don’t already know the resource, we’ve got plenty of people to make those connections.”

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If you’d like more information on the assistance which Envision Success provides or to donate time, materials, labor efforts, or monetary fund’s please call Gail Wilcox at Envision Success (405) 701-2015, or 1151 E Main St. Norman, OK (on the corner of 12th & Main) to find out how you can contribute.

Their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/EnvisionSuccessOK/

Email Gail Wilcox at: gpwilcox@EnvisionOK.org or their website Http://www.EnvisionSuccessOK.org

 

It is with deep appreciation the contributions of Envision Success, and especially Gail Wilcox on this article.  My sincere thanks and help with this article and all you are doing at Envision Success Inc.!

 

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