Living Columns & Blogs

Thanksgiving season has a ripple effect

As Georgia Gives Day, Nov. 28, popped up on the screen, I was reminded of the number of people in Macon who give to the arts and to non-profits without any prompting. One couple, that are enthusiastic supporters in the art community, and bring their friends along for the ride, are Priscilla and Ned Esser, whose names can be found on the membership rosters of several non-profits in Macon.

The Essers live in the historic Stetson house, in the Cherokee Heights neighborhood, the site of jazz fundraisers for the Jazz Association of Macon, or JAM; of casual cocktail buffets to raise the profile of the annual film festival and of feasts on holidays to invite friends home to meet their family. The Essers are gracious hosts, gourmet cooks and need very little prompting to entertain in their spacious house and garden.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, the Essers’ open house brought together friends and strangers whose common denominator was interest in promoting the arts in Macon. It was a family affair that included children and out of town relatives and guests; the house was buzzing with activity and with conversation about the myriad things there are to do in Macon, particularly during the holidays.

Priscilla, a painter and freelance writer, is preparing for an art show in the spring, but has dedicated the last week to decorating a room for Christmas at Hay House, all in the spirit of giving back to the many organizations that enrich the lives of all Maconites.

Georgia on the fast track in veterans’ transition

According to retired Air Force Col. Patricia Ross, Georgia was the first state in the country to implement a program to assist veterans in transitioning to civilian life. On Monday, Nov. 27, Ross was the guest speaker at the weekly meeting of the Macon Rotary Club. She is the COO of the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center, known as VECTR, an agency based in Warner Robins that is a multifaceted resource for anyone who has been separated from any branch of the armed forces.

Ross was introduced by Ivan Allen, president of Central Georgia Technical College, which manages the VECTR center and coordinates the resources of several agencies in providing training, education and access to other entities that address veterans affairs. With emphasis on work force development, CGTC assists veterans in defining goals, in assessing proficiency for specific jobs and in receiving the training and/or education necessary to be employed in a chosen field.

Other partners with VECTR are the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, the Georgia Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, Middle Georgia Work Source and United Way. Ross defines the agency as a “one stop shop” for veterans, which takes away some of the frustration of transitioning to civilian life.

“For instance, we spend months training 18-year-olds that enlist in one of the branches of the Armed Forces,” Ross said, “but we give those same men and women a week or so to prepare to return to civilian life,” she added. Rotary Club member, Malcolm Burgess, commended Ross and VECTR for helping men and women face the fears of civilian life, for he recalled a number of his fellow soldiers that did not know and were not prepared for the challenges that faced them after the Vietnam war.

VECTR is a non-profit agency funded by the state of Georgia, with no federal funds involved. In its first year, VECTR helped at least 4,000 veterans and their families adapt to civilian life. “There are career coaches that can help with refining resumes and with relating skills learned in the service to the ‘outside’ job market,” Ross stated.

In this area of Georgia, there are a combined 50 institutions which can provide technical training, college courses or a combination of the two when necessary for meeting the requirements for specific occupations. At the end of her presentation, Ross commented on the spirit of Thanksgiving and expressed her gratitude for the opportunities VECTR is giving veterans, and for the reception by the Middle Georgia business community, which has enthusiastically endorsed VECTR.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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