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PART II ‘Helping Our Heroes’ provides programs, resources to veterans, first responders

The second installment in the “Helping Our Heroes” webinar series - created by the Veterans and Military Council of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce to provide veterans, first responders and family members with resources, experts and organizations to improve their lives - was held May 26 via Zoom.

Mike Dopkin, CareerLink administrator for PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley, began the presentation by speaking about resources available through his organization.

“Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley is basically your one stop shop for your job search needs … You can just show up at our facility and just about anything you need for your work search, we can help you with,” Dopkin said.

He said CareerLink offers a number of outlets for job searching including online workshops and networking possibilities, as well as additional services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for eligible individuals, which includes case management, training opportunities, recruiter and business service access, among other resources.

Dopkin emphasized veterans can access all of CareerLink’s services and said the organization has three veteran representatives on staff to assist interested individuals.

He also noted veterans receive priority of service, “So no veteran will not be allowed into a workshop because of seats.” Veterans also have access to job networks, career guidance and other one-on-one assistance.

All resources can be accessed through CareerLink’s toll-free hotline, by email or at careerlinklehighvalley.org.

The next speaker was Connor Moriarty, founder and executive director of the Reset Outdoors empowerment organization.

Moriarty said he formed the organization out of his own experiences of being a licensed professional counselor focused on trauma and recovery.

“In the years of doing that, I have experienced the worst humans can do to other humans, and also seen the very best of our resiliency in action,” he said.

Moriarty said Reset Outdoors’ programming focuses on bringing people back to a state of “thriving” and out of “survival mode” through three main components - gentle exercise, formation of a counseling relationship “where you know you’re going to be valued,” and reconnecting people with the outdoors.

Additionally, Moriarty explained how Reset Outdoors developed the “Thrive Compass” which analyzes six facets of “your being as a human” that are positively affected by being outdoors - thoughts, health, resilience, interdependence, vitality and empathy.

“This gives you some good insight as to what you’re doing well, some areas that could use some attention, and the attention that you can give yourself,” he said.

Reset Outdoors offers single-day “stress-busters,” and eight-week and multiday overnight programs.

Moriarty said these experiences are provided as clinical mental health services for individuals, couples and families at Reset Outdoors’ office in Bethlehem, or as professional development plans for teams and organizations.

More information is available at resetoutdoors.com.

The next presenter was Janet Brennan, founder and executive director of Shamrock Reins.

She spoke about her organization’s equine therapy program for veterans and first responders.

Brennan said Shamrock Reins’ mission is to provide “positive, life-changing experiences for veterans, active duty and reserve service members, first responders, their families and families of the fallen by assisting with recovery and offering comfort and kindness in a safe environment.”

Founded in 2014, Shamrock Reins offers weekly sessions at its 22-acre Pipersville property in equine facilitated psychotherapy.

This teaches coping skills by navigating physical obstacles, and representing challenges in daily life.

Therapeutic horsemanship helps participants reach goals and build trust, communication and socialization skills through the human/horse bond.

Brennan said her organization offers pre- and post-deployment sessions for active duty service members, family support during deployment and all-day workshops to address specific topics such as bereavement, military sexual trauma, trust, social detachment and anxiety.

She said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has suspended in-person sessions out of an “extreme abundance of caution,” instead implementing a virtual-reality video session.

She said veterans and first responders who come to Shamrock Reins may be suffering from physical and mental health issues, and that working with horses provides “very positive outcomes” with a noted improvement in confidence, self-esteem and coping skills, decreased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as physical improvements in flexibility, muscle and core strength and coordination.

All programs are offered at no cost for individual, group or family sessions, and interested participants may self-refer or be referred by health care professionals or community members.

Further information is available at shamrockreins.org.

The final webinar presenter was Jason Kamora, director and facilitator of the Glenn R. Koch and Associates’ Veterans and First Responders Group.

“What we do for our program essentially is really looking at how we can help serve veterans and first responders in the community to keep them well and provide services so they can serve other people,” Kamora said.

He said the group was created to generate a sense of wellness and resiliency within its members and to cultivate a sense of community, develop new skills, and to move veterans and first responders “from surviving to thriving” with regards to PTSD, anxiety, depression, addictions or other conditions.

Kamora said providing these group wellness and therapy services to veterans and first responders is important to combat increasing feelings of social isolation and alienation felt by these groups and their families, which he attributed to the decrease in the number of Americans personally connected to military or emergency civilian services.

He noted the Veterans and First Responders Group is unique in that it places an importance in building a sense of community and mutual support to achieve members’ goals, addresses the individual needs of participants, and focuses on getting families involved in the process.

“Getting family and loved ones involved is really critical in terms of building that community around the individual,” Kamora said.

Group meetings are at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Kamora said teletherapy services are being used due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but in-person meetings will resume once the health emergency passes.

More information on programs and services is available online at glennrkochandassociates.com.

All broadcasts of “Helping Our Heroes” are available on the GLVCC website at lehighvalleychamber.org.