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Service Before Self Podcast

Aug 14, 2020

Welcome to the first episode of Service Before Self, a podcast that tackles the evolving needs of veterans and their families, based on the idea that veterans can succeed in the community where they live. This podcast will introduce you to people and the programs that are having an impact today; you will hear about their successes and lessons learned in creating effective programs in which veterans and their families reach their full potential.


Sam Whitehurst, your host, the Vice President of Programs & Services for Dixon Center, will dive deeply into the needs and challenges veterans and their families go through, as well as into the effective solutions to those challenges.


In this inaugural episode, Sam is joined by Rick Passarelli, who is the Director of Veteran Affairs and Workforce Development at Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and the chair for the workforce development subcommittee for the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council. Rick is the architect behind one of the most impactful workforce development programs for veterans in the country, the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP).


Rick enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1982; he served from that date until 1987 and he participated in two deployments. After leaving the Navy, Rick joined Peoples Gas, one of the largest regulated natural gas utilities serving the city of Chicago, where he just recently retired from, after 32 years.


Rick shares in today’s episode some of his very distinguished career of service to his country as well as what has made UMAP such a successful program for veterans.


Key takeaways:

[5:37] Richard talks about his Navy career and how it shaped him into who he is now.

[7:25] Richard shares his experience in Beirut.

[10:05] Transitioning out of the Navy and beginning a career at Peoples Gas

[12:20] Richard shares the specific work he did both at Peoples Gas and the UWUA with the UMAP program.

[16:10] Richard explains the significance of meaningful employment.

[19:56] Richard talks about the partnerships that make the UMAP program so successful.

[22:50] UMAP provides a mentorship program for veterans.

[25:33] Veteran unemployment before and after COVID-19.

[26:31] Richard explains how UMAP is tackling resources for dealing with the pandemic.

[28:54] Richard shares his excitement about a new program called Transition for Success.


Mentioned in this episode:

Dixon Center: Reaching America

At Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, we believe our veterans and military families can succeed where they live.

Dixon Center is named after Staff Sergeant Donnie Dixon, who was killed in action on September 29, 2007, in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Dixon was a father, husband, and Soldier who always placed the mission first and the safety of his fellow Soldiers above his own. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services stands as a testament to his example and leadership.

Dixon Center on Facebook

Dixon Center on Twitter

Dixon Center on Instagram


Learn more about Richard Passarelli

Visit UWUA for more information

Learn more about UMAP and Power4America


Quotes and Tweetables:


“Almost 50% of the membership in the city of Chicago and utility workers are veterans.”


“It is not just about employment for veterans, but meaningful employment.”


“We want to ensure that veterans and their families can really invest in their future.”


“UMAP offers a holistic approach to veterans who join the program.”


“I told them about the experiences that I gained in the Navy. I wanted to get into the construction industry and be able to utilize that skillset when I transition out. I worked a couple of jobs prior to Peoples Gas and in the construction industry.”


“I approached the CEO of Peoples Gas … and I asked them … to find a way to boost the membership to serve the community but also create … careers forward for our men and women coming back from [the Mideast] — at the time, the unemployment rate for veterans was … over 13%.”


“Collective bargaining agreements provide our veterans with good health benefits, great wage increases each and every year, sustainable benefits so that these guys can live the dream that we all had been promised and have the opportunity to be able to do what we all want to do.”


“This is not just preparing somebody for employment without providing all the supportive services that come with it so that we set up our veterans for success.”