*Written in December 2017

Do I have a hobby? (Definition of hobby from Merriam-Webster: a pursuit of one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation) Yes, I do. It is called VETLANTA.

My introduction to VETLANTA was through my attendance at VETLANTA’s Q2 Summit on April 12th, 2016. I truly thought, here is a free event in my somewhat new city to attend as a military spouse. The free part had me thinking- will I walk out of there with more than I “paid for”? But I am a strong networker and only had hopes of making connections in this new home city of mine.

There I heard presentations from KPMG, some great foundations and non-profits, VETLANTA’s President, and an old friend from my days as a Transition Coordinator at Wounded Warrior Battalion West… Hire Heroes USA. Everyone who took the platform, who had an exhibit table of information, who I shook hands with- were there to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses.

I was hooked.

Shortly after some phone calls and email exchanges, I connected with the leadership of VETLANTA, President Lloyd Knight, and met VP John Phillips, my LinkedIn connection via an introduction from a former coworker. I was asked to join the leadership team of VETLANTA to focus on communications- internal and external- and join the other 4 executive team members to grow this club and its abilities, help get local recognition, and increase our membership.

In June 2016, VETLANTA reached 750 members in our LinkedIn private group.

My first summit as VETLANTA’s Director of Communications was the Q3 Summit in August 2016 hosted by UPS at their global corporate headquarters. We had a huge crowd of 340+ attend including 25 UPS Veteran Business Resource Group (VBRG) leaders from across the country as UPS held our first ever in-person VBRG meeting in conjunction with the summit. This was significant as we hosted the Under Secretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy.

Also that month our President and Vice President met with VA Secretary Bob McDonald and the regional leadership from the VA. They discussed how we could collaborate going forward.

After much deliberation we named VETLANTA’s strategy initiative the 6 Pillars of VETLANTA- Employment, Healthcare, Housing, Education, Community and Business.  We knew each of these pillars had to be led by an expert in the field, so we reached out to our membership asking for volunteers and recommendations. The leadership team conducted interviews of members who were as passionate as we were in helping veterans and military families in Atlanta get connected to the resources they needed. Each of these pillars now has at least one Director, a team of VETLANTA members to support and an executive sponsor from our leadership.

Through VETLANTA I was involved with so many other momentous events and causes in 2016. We partnered with UPS, American Corporate Partners and Hire Heroes USA on a transitioning veteran seminar; cooked Thanksgiving breakfast for 50 homeless veterans at Veterans Empowerment Organization, attended the Freedom Ball; and hosted in partnership with UPS a Veteran Owned Business Summit.

We didn’t slow down in 2017.

As our membership continued to grow, so did our list of cohorts. The Coca-Cola Company, Four Block, Deloitte, Veterans’ Employment And Training ServiceShare Military Initiative at Shepherd Center, KPMG, Hiring Our Heroes, Hire Heroes USA, Team Red, White, and Blue, UPS, America’s Warrior Partnership, Sharp Business Systems, The Home Depot, Real Hero Report, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program… to name an (impressive) few.

In April 2017, my hobby reached a high of 1420 LinkedIn members. Our summit registrations now continually meet max capacity. These quarterly meetings grew from 300+, to 400+, to November 2017’s final summit of the year registering 540+.

In May 2017, VETLANTA hosted our very first annual Hiring and Resource Fair at the Kennesaw National Guard Armory. In July, we hosted the inaugural VETLANTA Golf Tournament. It was free for Veteran Business Owners and its intent was to help these entrepreneurs network with each other, get introduced to VETLANTA, and get connected to resources to help support their businesses. My hobby connects people to what they need.

At our August 2017 Q3 Summit VETLANTA had the pleasure of announcing the VA finalized a new Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB) partnership in Atlanta- VETLANTA.

This. Is. Huge.

As I write this article, we reached 1700 LinkedIn members. Are YOU one of them? Is VETLANTA your hobby? If not- please find us, join the group, introduce yourself and let us know how you can help veterans and their families or what VETLANTA and our membership can do to help you. Spend your free time meeting with us, attending summits, hiring conferences, volunteer opportunities… networking, connecting, and making Atlanta THE destination location for veterans and their families.

VETLANTA is my hobby. I am amazed at how much we can do… since this is just a club and all executive team and pillar leaders have full-time jobs. We’re only able to do so much because of our passion to help veterans, service members, and military families, our active membership, and our strategic alliances.

Check out VETLANTA’s website here:

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