On an ordinary day in 2013, William Loeber raised his hand during a town hall meeting with Congressman Scott Peters. At the time, the gesture seemed ordinary and unexpected, but it set in motion a plan that would change the lives of more than 500 veterans in the San Diego area.
"It happened in sort of a strange way," William recalls. "I raised my hand and asked why we weren't doing more to help the veterans."
William was not a veteran and did not have any close relatives who were veterans, so his involvement with their community extended no further than knowing a few discouraging statistics on veterans' post-service struggles, which he happened to hear on the news. "After all they'd done for our country, I thought they deserved a better fate than being unemployed," explains William. "I was ashamed we were not doing more to help our veterans."
Ever since that town hall meeting, William become deeply involved in improving the lives of veterans in his community. First, he founded a program called Operation Hand-Up, a class he ran to help veterans find jobs and transition from military service into the business world. Later, when the local chamber of commerce announced its desire to create Operation Connect for transitioning military, William worked with them to become the teacher and primary leader of the program.
The class is a one day, eight hour session that focuses on educating veterans about the business world's hiring process. Based on their individual backgrounds in the military, participants are able to translate and apply their knowledge to civilian jobs. More than 90% of veterans find jobs within three months of taking the class. "They learn how to recast their military experience into something the private sector will understand," says William. "They know by lunchtime what kind of job they should be going for and how they match up [with] the job requirements."
The class also teaches veterans about the secrets of networking and forming relationships with successful employers. This can help veterans become recognized and connected within the business world, allowing them to more easily find jobs that suit their needs and skills set.
"I try to teach veterans how interconnected everyone is," explains William. "It's highly unlikely that you'll meet your future employer at the first networking event you attend, but if you think of it as 'hey, I just made three connections,' you are on the right path to build out your network. If you put in the effort, it's almost magical; people you meet know other people who know other people and that leads to real opportunities."
During the six years he has worked with veterans, William has invested more than 1,500 hours of community service and earned several awards for his work. For William, however, volunteering isn't about the trophy or recognition. "It's nice to be recognized for the good things that you do, but my philosophy has always been to do things because of the way it makes me feel," he says. "I think of it as a way to inoculate myself from the negativity."
Thinking back to his time at Minnetonka, William says that it provided a good foundation for his work today. "The student population at Minnetonka was just extraordinary," he says. "They were hard working, they were scholastic, and they were nice to each other. It was a great place to grow up."
William encourages current students to dedicate time to service and enjoy the personal benefits that result from helping others. "Volunteering is good for the soul," he says. "It allows you to make deposits into your bank account of good feelings. When you personally experience bad days, you've got a balance in that account that can make you feel better. No one can do it for you. You've got to do it yourself."