Weatherization Technician, San Luis Valley Weatherization Services
Being Given a “Second Chance”
Twenty-nine-year old Army veteran Tony Matthews got himself into trouble with the law two years ago. With no criminal history, he was suddenly convicted of a felony, and was sentenced to six years with the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC).
It was an interesting twist of fate for Tony, who had previously worked as a corrections officer for the system that offers a viable alternative to incarceration. Luckily he took his mistake seriously – and was able to take steps to improve his situation. With a requirement to find employment, Tony worked with a fire crew fighting wildland fires. He also enrolled in Trinidad State Junior College – but, feeling like he was going through the motions without any specific direction, didn’t apply himself.
When the DOC sent Tony to live in a halfway house in Alamosa, he learned about Veterans Green Jobs. He decided to place a call to VGJ’s San Luis Valley Weatherization program.
“At the time, they were hiring more experienced people. I didn’t know the first thing about weatherization. But they gave me a second chance,” Tony says. Soon, Tony found himself air sealing windows and doors, and installing insulation skirting on the bottoms of trailer homes for people in the San Luis Valley – Colorado’s poorest region.
Tony has learned his skills “on the job,” thanks to colleagues who took him under their wing and taught him the ropes. The work has had such a positive influence on him, he never wants to get in trouble again – and he sees a real career opportunity in energy efficiency.
Besides offering a steady paycheck, Veterans Green Jobs is encouraging Tony to go back to school to advance his skills, and offers a supportive work environment that allows him to spend time with his family. Working alongside other vets, he is regaining the sense of cohesion offered by the military. “I’ve only been here two months, but it seems like I’ve known these people a lot longer than that. It reminds me of the Army that way.”
Tony takes pride in the quality of services the nonprofit offers to San Luis Valley residents.
“There’s a big need in the Valley for homes to be weatherized and become more energy efficient,” Tony says. “I can’t believe the money some people are spending to heat these homes; the heat is just going out the window, the roof and the floor. It makes me feel good to make someone else’s life better.”
With the difference Tony is now making on other peoples’ lives – and the turn of direction in his own – Tony says Veterans Green Jobs has made his transition back into the community much easier, as both a veteran and a felon.
“I was doing so well before I got in trouble. I’m so embarrassed about it. But it’s a blessing to have a good job, work with the community and have a chance to better myself.
It feels good to turn something so negative into a positive.”