Creating a Bridge to Employment

Creating a Bridge to Employment

ServiceSource assists people with a range of disabilities.


Veteran Harry Louque of Alexandria credits ServiceSource with turning his life around though its Warrior Bridge Program.

When Harry Louque looks out the window of his Old Town, Alexandria home, he can see the Masonic Temple in clear view. The U.S. Marine Corps and Army veteran has come a long way from his Fayetteville, N.C. house, which just a few years ago he often was scared to leave. Louque suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries after being Medevac’d out of Iraq in 2007. He said he has transformed his life since returning stateside in 2007. He attributes his turnaround to ServiceSource, a non-profit organization that provides a range of support and opportunities for people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, including a program for wounded veterans. ServiceSource programs provide rehabilitation, housing, training, employment and other support services for the disabled. Louque was part of ServiceSource’s Warrior Bridge Program, which provides employment opportunities to wounded veterans as they readjust to civilian life. He became involved in 2011, when a Wounded Warrior Program advocate introduced him to the non-profit organization.

“I had an advocate, who helped veterans reintegrate into the workforce,” Louque said. “He partnered me up with ServiceSource down in North Carolina in a government contract closeout position. I was responsible for making sure everything was closed out on hundreds of government contracts.”Louque said he benefitted from the Warrior Bridge program and the staff’s understanding and patience with him during this transition.“I had a horrible attendance the first six months that I was there,” Louque said. “I would show up for work for a day or so and then they wouldn't hear from me for a couple of days because I was in my house hiding out, afraid to leave. Luckily, with the kind of program it was, it was especially tailored to help guys in my situation.”It was a rough first six months, but in less than two years he improved so much that he was presented with a job offer he couldn’t resist. Last summer, he was hired by National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, the company that managed the contract he worked on through ServiceSource. Louque’s boss, Chris Marquez, at ServiceSource never doubted his ability to succeed.“Harry had some challenges adjusting to civilian employment at first but I also knew that he was very capable and highly intelligent and that if I could help him work through some things, that he could excel and that the sky was the limit,” said Marquez, contract closeout manager at the ServiceSource North Carolina Regional Office. Louque said he was in a dark place before he began contract work with ServiceSource. He spent four years in the Marine Corps and six years in the Army, from which he was medically retired in 2009. “I was medevac’d in early August 2007, and over of the period of the next couple of years, I started to have some pretty obvious emotional issues, physical and emotional,” Louque said. “Really, for two years there, I almost didn't leave my house. It was a really tough time.” He said everyone he worked with, including his mentor, had a keen understanding of his journey because they were all veterans. Being able to relate to everyone around him made all the difference to Louque, who served in combat tours in both Kuwait and Iraq.“Working with other veterans was the key,” Louque said. “We were able to relate to each other and talk to each other in a way most would not understand. Working only with veterans was huge. I didn't trust anyone else to begin with.”

SERVICESOURCE has regional offices and programs in eight states, including Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Every year, more than 15,700 people with disabilities benefit from ServiceSource.“ServiceSource directly employs more than 1,500 individuals on government and commercial affirmative employment contracts, making us one of the largest employers of people with disabilities nationwide,” said Teresa Guzik of ServiceSource. ServiceSource began in 1971, when a group of parents formed an organization to help their adult children with disabilities find meaningful jobs. It was then called Fairfax Opportunities Unlimited and grew into an AbilityOne authorized provider, giving it federal access to federal contracts. Finally, in 2001, the organization merged with ServiceSource, a non-profit organization in Fayetteville, N.C. Guzik said the organization has continued to grow over the past 10 years, playing a major role in employing wounded veterans and people with other disabilities around the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.“ServiceSource provides a range of customized programs for individuals with disabilities and their families, employers and corporate partners,” Guzik said. “Since 2008, ServiceSource has helped to facilitate a 36 percent increase in the number of people with disabilities employed and a 15 percent increase in the number of people served.”She added that the organization is in the process of building a Disability Resource Center in the Washington D.C. area.We will be closing on our new Capitol Area Disability Resource Center (DRC) in Oakton sometime in April,” Guzik said. “We will be breaking ground in June or July and operational in December 2014. It will allow ServiceSource to support even more people in a customized new facility that also serves as a community resource for individuals with disabilities and their families, community businesses and partner organizations.”

THE SERVICESOURCE MISSION is to empower people with setbacks, no matter how impossible everyday life may seem when they first become involved with the organization.“At ServiceSource, we are committed to exceptional service and support for individuals with disabilities and, to me, part of that is challenging employees to strive for excellence while instilling a ‘Can-Do’ attitude,” Marquez said.It worked for Louque. A separate non-profit, SourceAmerica, awarded him with their 2013 Regional Evelyne Villnes Award, which recognized him for transitioning from work on an AbilityOne contract to his current full time employment with the National Industries for the Blind.Louque said he is still close to ServiceSource, and hopes to have the same impact on other veterans that his mentor and colleagues did on him. He is now a mentor for the Warrior Bridge program, which he said saved his life.“Other situations, I would have easily been terminated,” Louque said. “They never really gave up on me and I came out a much different person on the back side of it. It was really the key for me to turning my entire life around. It was the difference between suicide and a productive life.”Once someone who was intermittently housebound, Louque found himself moving hundreds of miles away from Fayetteville, to a place where he had no existing friends or family.“I was really nervous about coming up here,” Louque said. “I did not know a single soul, so it was a really big deal for me.”