FAIRFIELD, NJ — Commander Brian Gallagher of the Fairfield VFW recently hosted it's first Suits for Soldiers event, where veterans received gently used suits donated by Pio Costa and Associates and assistance from professionals who were on hand to help them with personal branding, resumes, money management and more.

"Donating gently used suits under the Suits for Soldiers umbrella is an existing concept that other communities do to help veterans leaving the military and entering the workforce," said Gallagher. "When Pio Costa approached me wanting to donate suits from their clients, we came up with the idea of building upon the existing program." 

Statistically, according to Gallagher, veterans will have certain shortfalls when leaving the military. Veterans who have spent years protecting the United States are now years behind their civilian counterparts, he said. 

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"I found that some short falls that a veteran will go through are having the right resume, personal brand and money management skills," said Gallagher. "Rather than making veterans feel like they are getting a handout we wanted to give veterans a hand-up.

"Job experience and money management need to be structured a little differently to apply their skills on their resume and how best to manage their money now that their food and lodging are not covered under the military. Veterans depart the military, and overnight they are not putting on their camouflage but are putting on a suit." 

On hand to assist the veterans with personal branding was Margaret O'Donnell, Manager of Military and Veteran Engagement Programs at Rutgers Business School. Lauren Markon, owner of Career Connections NJ, was also on hand to help veterans with resumes, cover letters, career counseling, LinkedIn profiles, interviews and job-searching skills. 

Additionally, Phil Elliot Photography shot professional photos of the veterans for their social media profiles.

"It is important to show a good face and put their best foot forward with a good profile picture, and I am more than happy to donate my time and services to the veterans," said Elliot.  

Anthony Pio Costa IV of Pio Costa Associates said his office was in the midst of considering some community outreach opportunities and decided to reach out to the local VFW.

By collecting the suits at Prime 94 in June, Gallagher was able to put together an event that would help soldiers going into the work force select a professional suit for interviews.

"We are always looking at ways to become a stronger hub here in Fairfield, so we are definitely going to be having more events geared towards veterans and the community," said Gallagher.