Maveric Driving Range & Learning Center
Expert golfers stress the importance of looking at every shot as a new opportunity, not unlike the services offered by the MAVERIC Golf Driving Range in Lyons, N.J. Every swing from the range’s grass tees helps players sharpen their skills before their next round. As host to the World Golf Federation’s “First Tee” program, the MAVERIC range helps introduce the game and its positive values to young people of all backgrounds.
The driving range also represents a new beginning for some of New Jersey’s 8,500 homeless veterans, but in a different way.
Located on the Lyons campus the of Lyons Veterans Administration Hospital of the Department of Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System, MAVERIC (Moving American’s Veterans into Employment and Residences in the Community) is one of several programs developed by Veterans Industries (VI) to help veterans learn work skills and regain the self-confidence they may have lost following their service to our country, enabling them to once again become part of the community workforce.
Despite its noble mission and popularity among area golfers, the MAVERIC range struggled financially and relied on supplements from VI’s limited budget to stay in business. Help arrived in late 2004 when Bill Baldwin—a former business executive, Vietnam-era Navy veteran, and Northwest New Jersey SCORE mentor—applied to become a volunteer at the hospital.
VI’s leaders immediately recognized the potential value of Baldwin’s business expertise and asked if he’d be interested in helping their programs—including the MAVERIC range—become more profitable. “I said yes without hesitation,” Baldwin says. “Improving the programs would allow them to help more veterans with their recovery, and be less dependent on annual budgeting from the VA.”
The two-year effort yielded some impressive results, according to Nagle. “We went from a deficit of $91,000 in 2004 to a projected profit of $25,000 this year,” he says proudly. “If SCORE had not come aboard, I do not think we would be where we are today.” VI Coordinator Kurt Hanscom adds that the benefits extend beyond the balance sheet.
“During the past four years, the driving range trained and employed 113 veterans, five of whom attended specialized turf training at Rutgers University, and more will participate this year,” Hanscom says. “One of the Rutgers-trained veterans was able to use his management experience at MAVERIC to get a job as a turf specialist for the board of education in Middlesex County of New Jersey.”
Hanscom also credits VI’s ability to operate these businesses to the entrepreneurial VA leadership of Jim Farsetta, network director; Ken Mizrach, VA New Jersey director; Dr. Miklos Losonczy, associate chief of staff for Mental Health Services; and John Kuhn, former chief of Homeless Services.
Bill Baldwin enlisted the help of fellow SCORE mentors who were also veterans of both the business world and the Armed Forces. The team, which included finance expert Bill Daly, consumer marketing specialist Stan Strauss, and IT authority Joe Brockman, worked with Rick Nagle, the newly appointed MAVERIC business manager and a recovered homeless veteran. They began working to identify and correct financial control problems, reduce expenses and boost revenue.
“I was very impressed by the professionalism of these gentlemen,” Nagle says. “I was excited by what they told us we could do to track our business, and immediately took it to heart.”
The SCORE team worked with Nagle to develop Excel spread sheets to account for revenue and expenses. Using the organized data, the team could address problems such as unusually high water bills, caused by a leaky pipe that was immediately repaired, labor allocation issues and golf balls provided to the range’s teaching professionals.
The SCORE team also suggested a ways to raise MAVERIC’s visibility through flyers, media publicity and roadside sandwich-board signs. A revised range membership structure helped boost revenue.
More success stories are in store at the Lyons hospital, as the SCORE team is now examining ways to improve other VI programs, including a café and catering operation. These efforts will enable the VA to devote more of its budget to other veteran recovery and training programs.
“I applaud these guys for their professionalism and dedication to making a difference in our lives, and the lives of all my fellow veterans here at Lyons,” Nagle says. “I am very proud to call these guys friends and colleagues.”
“We love the opportunity to assist veterans and SCORE has helped us to be better than we imagined,” he adds. “These small steps toward moving mountains are now going to help us expand our service and stay self-sufficient. The interesting aspect is SCORE is helping us to do the very thing we are helping veterans do—become self-sufficient.”