A little over a year ago, Robin Wilkins, the now Founder and President of Boots Up, saw a void for veterans that needed to be filled. Aside from working full-time on Wall Street, Wilkins was helping both her friends and family around-the-clock who were veterans, or who knew of veterans who were in need of some guidance. Fueled by the lack of resources actually offered to these men and women, Wilkins decided to take action into her owns hands by leaving her job in Manhattan and creating Boots Up, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which aids in the transition process from military to civilian life. “I wanted to be a lifeline for these guys,” Wilkins explained. “I realized that no matter what their rank was, whether they were a corporal or a high-ranking general, they all had the same basic issues. The military puts so much money and time into training these men and women for their positions but when it’s time for them to come home and re-enter civilian life, there’s only a few days of preparation.”
Knowing that it would be nearly impossible to take on such huge task by herself, Wilkins reached out to long-time friend Christine Brenner, Owner of Brenner Metal Products Corp. and Moxie Blowdry & Beauty Salon in Ridgewood. For Brenner, this was a cause near and dear to her heart because not only did she grow up in a military family, but her metal business provides equipment exclusively for the U.S. Army. Together, these two combined their resources and today, offer veterans assistance in everything from educational opportunities to legal representation. Primarily, however, Boots Up works to pair veterans with their ideal career along with a sponsor program, which will ultimately serve as a stepping stone for the rest of their lives. Through a series of questions, Boots Up will determine which career is right for each veteran and guide them in taking steps towards helping them achieve their goal. Wilkins explained, “Our typical turnaround time is one to four weeks. We want to match veterans up with a career that they’re passionate about and is going to work towards their personal goals. We have a series of questions that we ask them but the one thing I always ask is, ‘If you woke up tomorrow morning and had all the money in the world and you could buy an island but instead, you’re going to go back to work, what would you do?’ What these Veterans sometimes forget or don’t realize is that, in the civilian world, there’s always a chance to reinvent yourself and time to change paths.”
Last year, Boots Up held their first “VIPs and Veterans” social mixer at Moxie and will be doing the same for their second gathering. The invitation-only event will be held on Thursday, December 15th from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. The evening will give participating veterans and their sponsors a chance to mingle with some of Bergen County’s most prominent figures, followed by cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres. And for the first time, Boots Up will be accepting donations from attendees. “We really just want people to know that we’re here. If there’s anything you need or anything we can do we’re just a phone call away. We’re like a family,” Brenner added.
For more information or to find out how you can support, volunteer or donate to Boots Up, visit their website or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.