Man wins Jefferson Award for work to help veterans, people with disabilities

This month's Jefferson Award winner is Jeff Klare. (Credit: Shelbey Roberts)

FOX 28 News is a proud partner of the Jefferson Awards, a foundation that recognizes local heroes who help make their city better through community service. For the month of September, FOX 28 is recognizing Jeff Klare from Statesboro for his non-profit work involving veterans and people with disabilities.

“There are kids that volunteered to die for us," said Jeff Klare.

The kids he's referring to are our nation’s service men and women bravely fighting for our freedoms at home and across the world. Those heroes sometimes face a stark reality when they return from war.

“These kids come home with nothing. A wife, children, no paycheck," he said.

It’s a drastic shift back to civilian life and one that doesn’t always happen easily. Klare says he saw that when he worked on President Bill Clinton’s commission for people with disabilities and unemployment.

“The problem is that the young men and women are not taught that 30 second elevator speech. How does a sniper- a machine gun operator on a tank- an artillery officer- what skills do they offer a bank? And they need to be able to transition that experience in the military into civilian life," said Klare.

That’s where his non-profit, “Be a Hero, Hire a Hero,” comes in. He started the program after 9/11 as a way to offer job resources to unemployed veterans and those with disabilities.

Klare said, “You started to see kids come back that were new people with disabilities. But as a marine is a marine is a marine, you’re not a marine with one leg. You’re a marine. And so, that’s what we started was a movement."

That movement led to more than 11,000 people getting jobs over the last 12 years. Klare says the program provides additional resources to communities he feels are sometimes overlooked in the job market. And those who know Klare say he lives out his passion for service every day.

“I been friends with [Klare] for close to 20 years--and friends," said Adrian Guglielmo with the Department of Defense. "He’s one of the people that are still standing. He never let a veteran down.”

Guglielmo has worked closely with some of the injured veterans now working because of Klare.

"Jeff is still standing, and there’s a reason why, because he’s integrity, for what he does is ‘one veteran at a time’," Guglielmo said.

Klare says he’s moved that the program has taken off so well and stresses it’s not about him.

“We don’t care about ourselves, we care about others," he said.

If you're interested in getting involved with "Be a Hero, Hire a Hero", click here.

Congratulations, Jeff Klare! If you know a local hero that is making a positive difference in their community, nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.

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