Outreach Manager, Denver/Jefferson County Weatherization Services
The thing Sonja Carter misses most about the military is the friendships. Always knowing she had a partner she could trust and rely on for help when she was going through a rough time – and being there for others in return – was the essence of the U.S. Army. As an ophthalmic technician, she helped soldiers who had been inflicted with eye diseases. Today, employed by Veterans Green Jobs, she is in a position to help others again, and has regained that sense of camaraderie in a supportive work environment.
Sonja’s position as outreach manager for Denver/Jefferson County Weatherization Services is a natural fit for her. Her job is to put low-income families in touch with Veterans Green Jobs’ free weatherization services. To spread the word about this program, she attends community meetings and events, and takes phone calls from people who want to learn how the program can save them money and make their homes more comfortable.
“By weatherizing their homes we’re making their homes so much more livable – warmer in winter, and cooler in summer. Their heating bills go way down,” Sonja says. She adds with a smile: “They love the way our weatherization guys treat them. They are really appreciative.”
As a single mother, Sonja understands how difficult it is for many families to keep up with house bills – not to mention spending additional money to upgrade a home’s heating and cooling systems.
“I’m making a good income, but the money I earn goes to my child. I’m struggling with the heating bill payments; other people who don’t make as much have to be struggling,” she says empathetically.
When Sonja applied for her position at Veterans Green Jobs, she had been laid off from her previous company where she was also engaged in weatherization service-related community outreach. Because she is disabled – she was injured during a physical training exercise in the Army – she hasn’t found it easy to get certain kinds of work.
“I’ve lost jobs where I needed to be on my feet. I was considered a liability. So I found myself trying to hide my disability, not taking my cane and walking slower. At Veterans Green Jobs, I feel comfortable,” she says.
These days, Sonja doesn’t let her disability get her down. And she says the best part about her job is the feeling that she makes a difference in people’s lives: “The success stories we hear from our clients make me want to get up in the morning and help someone. Working together, we can do a lot.”