Georgette Bell usually feels a little nervous before job interviews. A dental hygienist and wife of a Navy command master chief, interviewing with a potential employer via a shaky Zoom connection while stationed in Japan could have added more anxiety to the mix.
But the interview was set up through Boots2Roots, a nonprofit that assists active-duty military members, veterans and their spouses in finding work and putting down roots in Maine. Bell’s future employer in Maine understood her unique situation, and even though the video only worked one way, she got the job.
“Boots2Roots helped me secure a job when we were stationed overseas, and my husband was deployed,” Bell said. “They contacted me, helped with my resume, interview preparation, and employer introductions.”
A helping hand during transitioning
From handling housing and new costs of living to creating a resume and starting a job hunt, navigating the military-to-civilian transition independently isn’t always easy.
That’s where Boots2Roots stands out, helping transitioning active-duty members, veterans and their families find good jobs quickly and become part of the community fabric in Maine. The nonprofit was founded in 2016 by retired Air Force colonel and Maine native Dave Hickey and a co-worker at Bath Iron Works, John Manganello.
Ruger Pearson, a former Army officer, knew he, his wife, and small children wanted to be in New England. While Pearson is from California, his wife’s family is from Massachusetts. So being near family and nature was important.
“I was interested in working for a nonprofit. I applied to jobs all over New England and was striking out a lot. Then I found Boots2Roots,” Pearson said. “They were doing a hiring event with Live and Work in Maine. We connected, and they were so helpful in translating my military experience and resume to make sense in the civilian world.”
One of the biggest struggles for veterans is explaining the work they did in the military in a way that civilian employers can understand what they bring to the table.
“Boots2Roots first helped by providing a resume template. I put everything I did in the Army down, and then I worked with the team to get the military terms out and make it really clear for employers,” Pearson said.
But help didn’t end there.
“We went over my resume and did interview prep a couple of times per job I applied to, so everything was tailored to specific openings,” Pearson said.
Now, he’s working at a nature-focused nonprofit.
Building a broader community of veterans
Whether you’ve been a military family for more than two decades, such as the Bells, or served a single tour, finding assistance during transition can make all the difference.
Bell’s husband, Randy, grew up between Massachusetts and Canada, so being close to his family brought them back to New England. But, as parents, they had a few other requirements about where to settle.
“We wanted to find a place with a great school system that was also military-friendly and had strong VA hospitals,” Georgette said.
Boots2Roots helped the couple find jobs they loved while stationed more than 6,000 miles away in Japan. Now retired, Randy Bell serves as the program director.
Boots2Roots also assists with finding housing, VA loans, and introducing newly settled Mainers to others in the community.
“There are a lot of veterans here,” Pearson said. “And everyone knows everyone. You meet someone new and find out they already know one of your friends.”
“They helped us get a realtor, and she was amazing,” Georgette said.
“They’re dedicated to helping veterans find housing and set up mortgages,” Pearson said.
Even before moving to Maine, the Bells connected with other families who previously went through the program, all of them offering advice and help to make transition smoother.
“These families understand how stressful the process of coming out of the military and entering civilian life is,” says Bell. “It’s not easy, so they want to let you know you’re not alone.”
As a native of Hawaii, Maine has another draw for Georgette; she loves the seasons. And for Pearson, who grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Maine offers a little bit of everything.
“We can be snowboarding or at the ocean in less than an hour, and the restaurant scene in Portland is stellar,” Pearson said. “I’m trying to get my friends to move here.”
For more information, visit the Boots2Roots website.