Suits for Soldiers aims to help veterans looking dress for career success

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COLUMBIA – A local insurance agency wants to help returning soldiers find a new job, by helping them dress for interviews and work.

Farmers Insurance from the Central Missouri District organized a Veterans Day a clothing drive where people can drop off lightly-worn suits. It's known as Suits for Soldiers.

“Every year, there is approximately 200,000 soldiers transitioning out of the military. As they go back in the civilian life, they are doing job interviews. A lot of them don’t have proper suits or ties to wear for interviews,” said Garach Smith, the Farmers Insurance district manager in Columbia.

Although the drive involves Farmers Insurance offices across the county, it’s the first year the local agency in Columbia organized the collection.

In the first two hours, 100 suits were dropped off. The Farmer’s agency would like to collect 200 suits by the end of the day.

The professional clothes will be dry cleaned by Robinson Cleaners before being sent to Farmer Insurance home office in Jefferson City to be distributed to veterans in need.

Sean McLafferty, an army veteran from Iraq, said, “When veterans come back, they’re used to wearing only uniforms every single day. They don’t really know to wear business professional, business casual. It might be as well a foreign language.“

Suits for Soldiers aims to facilitate the transition into the civilian work force.

“Going from a environment where you work very hard 24 hours/7 and where you're always in a team to when you come back as an individual into the job market, it’s a huge transitional period,”McLafferty said.

Another difficulty for veterans is building a resume. Returning soldiers have to put together something similar to civilians applying for the same job. 

McLafferty said, “You have to say 'supervising 12 employees' instead of accomplishing a mission where they had to lead 12 soldiers.”

Smith said, “Soldiers have to adapt their skill set they have from a regimented organization. When they come back they have to figure out how to take that skill set into the civilian word and that’s not always easy.”

The Suits for Soldiers drive will run until Nov. 30. Donors can drop items off at any Farmers Insurance location.