Charlotte Bridge Home Bridges the Gap between Military and Civilian Life
Oct 01, 2013
When one military family retired in Charlotte, they were connected to Norcom Properties President Thomas Norman. A Vietnam veteran, Norman quickly realized that his military and local knowledge would only get the family so far; they needed serious help navigating the system of support for veterans’ education, employment and healthcare. The experience motivated Norman to establish Charlotte Bridge Home, a nonprofit that guides families making the transition from military to civilian life.
This proved to be no small undertaking. In addition to the 55,000 veterans currently residing in Charlotte – 6,000 of whom have served since 9/11 – it’s estimated that between 4,000 and 7,000 more will settle in the area over the next two years. To establish a baseline for his organization’s work, Norman first identified the key challenges faced by returning veterans. The report, “Coming Home,” found that employment is the number one challenge, followed by difficulties obtaining compensation, accessing healthcare, finding housing and resolving family issues.
Charlotte Bridge Home then called on various segments of the community to form a network of support for veterans. “We’re so proud to work with these servicemen and women,” said Norman. It’s a responsibility, but what an opportunity.” Bank of America was among the first to respond to the call of duty. The bank provided expertise to the organization’s leadership council and board of directors, and sponsored the first Community Veterans Summit in March 2013.
Shortly thereafter, Norman was introduced to Adam Stead, a helicopter pilot severely injured after spending fewer than 90 days in a war zone. Stead underwent nearly two years of intensive care and treatment before he was released to his wife and daughter. Rather than return to a small town in Utah, the family sought a fresh start in Charlotte. Norman connected Stead to key services and partners.
Stead, like so many of his peers, struggled most with finding employment. Charlotte Bridge Home introduced him to Bank of America, which ultimately hired him for a position in mortgage processing. Norman has seen firsthand the impact of this connection. “After he got the job, Stead’s approach to life and success jumped 100 octaves overnight. He’s one of the happiest guys you’ll run into today.”
Charlotte Bridge Home is working to make that happen for many more veterans. Norman wants to inspire a movement that extends far beyond Charlotte. “Our hope is that every community in this country will take this approach and take the attitude to say ‘we’re there for you,’” said Norman. “They have to provide the support to make these families as successful as they can be.”