By David Lyons
City & Shore Magazine
The effort started with the fathers’ concern for their children – all military veterans who returned from war zones to Broward County, in search of a new civilian life.
The year was 2012, recalls Craig Pollock, group vice president of corporate services at JM Family Enterprises. And the young men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan needed help with the transition. How and where to find a job? How to obtain follow-up medical services for war injuries? What was the best path to resume an interrupted education?
Pollock has a stepson who served abroad. His boss, JM Family Chairman Colin Brown, has a son who did a tour in Afghanistan. And Fort Lauderdale attorney Stephen Moss, who himself served in Vietnam as a company commander in the U.S. Army, has a daughter, Shannon, who was injured in combat while serving with the Army in Iraq.
It wasn’t long before the executives, among others, spearheaded an effort through United Way of Broward County to build a road for veterans to seamlessly return to their communities from the military. That effort – known as Mission United – has helped more than 10,000 veterans from Broward obtain access to jobs, healthcare, financial aid, legal assistance and educational opportunities.
“It was really born out of the fact that there were all of these active military people starting to come back and how can you transfer their knowledge and education back into jobs in South Florida?” says Pollock, who has coordinated JM Family’s volunteer efforts for Mission United since its inception, and who now serves on the group’s 40-member advisory council.
“You manage ammunition,” he says. “That skill could translate into managing a warehouse.”
A 30-year executive at JM Family, Pollock says he has used his management experience and broad network of business contacts both within and outside the company to get volunteers involved.
“It’s one thing to stand up and cheer for people at a game to show your appreciation, but it’s another thing to help people pick themselves up when they’re down,” he says.
The objective: Establish a “one-stop shop where veterans can go in this part of the world to get all the help they need to acclimate back into society.”
Moss, who once told the Sun Sentinel that he was horrified by the long waits his daughter endured for surgery and government disability payments, quickly signed up to help the nascent program when he learned of its formation more than seven years ago.
A past chairman of the Mission United advisory council who now serves in an honorary role, he credits Pollock and Kathleen Cannon, president and CEO of United Way of Broward and Mission United supporter, for the organization’s steady growth and development.
“There has not been a company that has done more than JM Family and Craig has been the leader who led the charge and made it happen,” says Moss, a partner with the Holland & Knight law firm in Fort Lauderdale.
“He has led the charge for the support from JM Family both financially as well as with the volunteers,” Moss adds. “JM wrote the first check which was above the others.”
Other current corporate partners besides JM Family include American Express, the Florida Panthers hockey club and Toyota. Past sponsors have included AutoNation, Comcast and Roy & Kathryn Krause.
According to the nonprofit’s web page, unitedway.org/mission-united, Mission United has helped more than 5,000 veterans find pro bono legal services. Over the past five years, more than 3,000 veterans and their families have received housing support.
Now, other Mission United groups are sprouting in the Miami, Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa areas, as well as outside the state. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. military are served, including those from World War II.
“We’re still maturing as an organization and a lot of our efforts have been creating this infrastructure to help people,” Pollock says. “Where we can still evolve is to let the community know what we do and drive more support toward Mission United.”