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Connecting With Injured Soldiers @ Army Yellow Ribbon Event

by Wilma Meep

May 25, 2023

Project:  Return To Work Inc.  (R2W) is a trusted community leader providing employment and rehabilitation services to injured soldiers.  And their families.

Robin Ray Brazell, R2W’s Founder, plans to speak with 24 injured soldiers and their families at the US Army’s Yellow Ribbon event in Vail, Colorado June 2 – 4, 2023.  Mr. Brazell will bring R2W’s mascots, Yin and Yang, to help him breakthrough the barriers. He says, “They are a huge help.  They enable me to instantly connect with people who have sacrificed so much.  Trust!”

Yin and Yang
R2W’s Mascots


See Yin and Yang on Fox 31 News!

Mr. Brazell will talk about ESGR’s programs to award outstanding employers, and to mediate when employers fail to comply with the USERRA law.  He will also inform injured soldiers and their families about education, employment, and rehabilitation programs at R2W.

Event Details | DoD Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program – Official Site


Please volunteer as a mentor at https://www.return2work.org/volunteer .

And please donate at https://www.return2work.org/donate .


Sleep well at night knowing you’re making a difference.  Even a small contribution will go a long way.





Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a DoD-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through Yellow Ribbon events, Service members and loved ones connect with local resources before, during, and after deployments. Reintegration during post-deployment is a critical time for members of the National Guard and Reserve, as they often live far from military installations and other members of their units. Commanders and leaders play a critical role in assuring that Reserve Service members and their families attend Yellow Ribbon events where they can access information on health care, education and training opportunities, financial, and legal benefits. We work in government and non-government partners, including the Small Business Administration and Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs, to provide up-to-date and relevant information to the members of the All-Volunteer force and their families.


About Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (army.mil)

About Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve > About ESGR > Contact > Local/State Pages > Colorado  (R2W’s Founder is an Area Chair).

About USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov).


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Barriers to Employment and How to Overcome Them


Nikki DAgostino, CESP, R2W Career Counselor


The United States Department of Labor defines barriers to employment as ‘any conditions that may make employment difficult.’ Barriers can especially affect individuals with disabilities, who already may have a lack of resources available.

Some of the most common employment barriers include transportation barriers and criminal record barriers. These barriers can inhibit a person’s ability to keep and maintain employment.

When seeking employment, either by oneself or with the assistance of an employment program, it is important to assess potential barriers and come up with a game plan on how to overcome them. While not all barriers can fully be overcome, many can, and there are many techniques, resources, and methods that can be implemented to mitigate the overall impact of the barrier.

For example, when someone lacks transportation resources when searching for employment, they can utilize several methods to overcome the barrier. First, they can utilize Google Maps to determine what local employers may be within walking or biking distance of their residence. They can research state and county public transportation options, including disability door to door services for qualified individuals with disabilities. Networking, including utilizing resources through friends, family members, local non-profits, and carpooling groups can also be an excellent option. Lastly, rideshare services can also be utilized, when necessary, but proper budgeting and planning should be implemented.

Having a criminal background can also be a difficult barrier to overcome, particularly for individuals with prior felony convictions or convictions that include violence or theft. Employers do reserve the right to make hiring decisions based on prior convictions and can legally decline employment based on background check information. It is important when an individual has a criminal record to be upfront and truthful about the record – particularly if the employer indicates their intention to run a background check. By being forthcoming and truthful about what will come up on the background check, it can help open up a dialogue with management, where exceptions and accommodations can be made.

It is also extremely important to review the background check authorization paperwork as well. Some employers will only run a 7-year background check, or a 10-year background check. If the paperwork specifically indicates “have you had any convictions within the last 7 years” and your conviction was eight years ago, then it is perfectly acceptable to indicate ‘no’ on that paperwork.

In addition, many companies are taking initiatives to be more inclusive for individuals with backgrounds to help reintegrate previous offenders back into the workforce. There are many online resources available for offenders, including sources that specify different employers’ policies and hiring practices when it comes to individuals with criminal records. In addition, the construction fields, restaurant / culinary fields, and self-employment fields have always been great career fields for individuals to enter who may have more difficult criminal convictions.

Overall, with the proper preparation, acknowledgment, and guidance, one can learn to overcome a variety of barriers and attain successful employment outcomes.



Jalali Hartman, R2W Trustee, Former R2W Director

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Devastating Effects of Hurricane Ian on Charlotte County and Project: Return to Work Inc. (R2W)

Nikki D’Agostino, R2W Career Counselor & DVR Program Director

The American flag stands in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Forty Myers Beach, Florida, Oct. 2, 2022. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jesse Hanson

Hurricane Ian was a powerful Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on the Southwest coast of Florida on September 28, 2022. The storm brought catastrophic heavy rain and wind to the area, causing widespread damage and destruction. Roads were flooded, buildings were demolished, and the overall area is still in a very slow recovery period.

The immediate impacts of the storm were substantial damage to both residential and commercial properties. Infrastructure and utilities were critically damaged resulting in over a week without running water in the Englewood, FL area. Power was down for 2-3 weeks, and internet and cell phone services were down for over a month.

Due to the hurricane’s impact, many businesses were affected as well. Project: Return to Work Inc (R2W) was substantially impacted by the hurricane, resulting in considerable business and resource losses. As a non-profit relying on donations and government grants, the hurricane caused critical losses. State offices were shut down, customers lost their jobs, and other customers closed out / moved out of state altogether. Without internet and cell services, and the hurricane damage impact to staff, Return to Work’s Florida Ops was essentially dead in the water for over a month.

While R2W’s Florida Ops has resumed close to normal services, the damages are still being felt on a daily basis. The hurricane put us over a month behind in our services, paperwork, and availability. Staff are still recovering from substantial damage to their homes and offices. Customers whom we serve also lost their homes and belongings.

It is critical now in our time of need to recover, and thereby help others recover from the disastrous catastrophic damages caused by Hurricane Ian.


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Day of Caring 2020

Day of Caring 2020

Volunteers & Employers Sign Up Here

Job Seekers Sign Up Here

Over the years, we’ve participated in many of United Way’s Day of Caring events. It’s a tradition.

This year’s event on August 28th will be entirely online because of COVID-19. But we’re no strangers to technology.


Deborah Haynes is directed off the tarmac at Boulder Municipal Airport after being flown down from Jamestown on a National Guard helicopter after being stranded from heavy rains in Boulder, Colorado September 13, 2013. The National Guard worked to rescue an entire Colorado town of about 1,600 people on Friday, a day after they were cut off by raging floodwaters that have killed at least three people, washed out dams and turned roads into rivers across the state. REUTERS/Mark Leffingwell (UNITED STATES – Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) – RTX13KEY

United Way canceled Day Of Caring in 2013 due to once-in-a-century floods.  But R2W stayed on course on the internet. While the National Guard airlifted R2W volunteers and respected citizens to safety, others were able to carry on online.

It was one of our most impactful events.

Just Plain Very Hard


Former Chair, Project: Return To Work Inc. (R2W)


Thanks to magnanimous contributions from Safeway Foundation, StaffCV, Hurricane Electric, Microsoft, Greater Faith Community Church, Christian Science, and many others, we are hosting a fun and innovative job fair for 1,000 to 2,000 job seekers, 100-200 employers, and 100-200 volunteer mentors.

Please sign up now so we have a little time to use our donated technologies to match up everyone.  We have demonstrated the ability to radically improve positive outcomes at previous events this way.  That way, on August 28th, the online event will be more about job interviews and sage advice from caring mentors than dropping off resumes.

Full event details here.

Contact Us

Watch Video:

Day of Caring 2020 | Return to Work

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Fran Nixon Award 2018

Octogenarian Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

Updated Jun 20, 2020

ENGLEWOOD, FLORIDA— Jenna Lonsdale didn’t let her disability define her. She proudly worked at Nielsen Market Research Company in Venice. She did great there until she lost her job when the office closed.

Jeanna, R2W client

The 28-year-old Englewood resident was one of 396 workers laid off in April. In five years, she had only missed one day of work. She was told to file for unemployment. There were several setbacks for Lonsdale. She doesn’t drive and there’s no public transportation from her neighborhood to areas where she could apply for work at area pet stores, day care centers or libraries.

“The problem is unemployment tells you to apply for five jobs a week,” she said. “It’s very hard to do when you don’t drive.”

Another challenge with her disability is she fidgets when she’s nervous and believes it sometimes doesn’t make for a good first impression. A little frustrated, Lonsdale needed help but wasn’t sure where to turn.

Her life changed after learning about the Return To Work program in Punta Gorda. It helps job seekers engage with employers. It also matches client interests, abilities and aptitudes that helps get them a long-lasting job they enjoy and find rewarding.

It’s where she met Fran Nixon, the Missions Operations Manager, and her team. They worked to help Lonsdale connect with local employers and transition back to work.

In time, Lonsdale had the training she needed to go to work at a preschool a short distance from her home.

Lonsdale recently shared her testimony as an honored guest at a special awards ceremony for Nixon at Boca Royale Golf & Country Club in Englewood.

Fran Nixon Award 2018

Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr present Fran Nixon with a gold medal, coin, and lifetime achievement award from President Trump.

Nixon was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Donald Trump.

The Charlotte County resident, who is in her 80s, was lauded for volunteering more than 1,000 hours in a year and given a gold medal and 4,000 accumulative hours.

Nixon, who helped her own son Rob Brazell, found Return To Work 20 years ago in Colorado, is considered a “tough as nails, but always a lady.”

Nixon expanded the program in Florida and managed the contract with Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation agency. She also provided services to newly enabled job seekers, a job that caused her to travel statewide to meet them and their families and the employers. She periodically attends White House teleconferences, advocates the Return To Work program throughout the region and recruits new applicants, works with mentors and other volunteers in the Service Learning Internship mission.

“Part of Mom’s daily task is to pray for Return To Work clients and all of the people that it touches,” Brazell said.

Rob Brazell, R2W Founder, received a gold medal from President Obama.

Brazell told the crowd his mother exceeded the requirements for the President’s Volunteer Service award. She was given an official pin, medallion and a framed certificate. The award is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered through the Points of Light organization. It celebrates the impact people can make in their community and the world.

Nixon credits her success in helping touch the lives of 8,500 applicants and others throughout the year to God. She is a member of the First Church of Christ Scientists in Englewood and the mother church in Boston.

“We have a very diverse organization with no limits to make a difference for abled to disabled clients,” she said. “We work with a hodgepodge of people who will fit in regardless of their background. It takes a nation to help.”

Nixon said she had to learn the software for the system. With the help of Brazell, she said, it made a difference in advancing their program and even more people find jobs.

Nixon shared several success stories. She also thanked Nikki D’Agostino, the client services specialist at Return to Work for her drive in positive outcomes and lasting placements for local employees. She also thanked her son and close friends who never let her down. She said local companies including Weiler Engineering Corp. in Punta Gorda and several others have been instrumental in helping provide meaningful jobs to Return to Work clients.

Shortly after meeting Hosea Cannon, a pastor and chaplain at the Denver Sheriff’s Department, Nixon joked she loved him and wanted to adopt him as her own. Cannon flew in to give an inspirational speech at Nixon’s ceremony.

Cannon reinforced Nixon’s lifelong choices in helping others. He explained there’s simple keys to success in life.

“God is in control,” he said. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Appreciate your family and learn to love them. Forgive immediately your sister, mother, brother. Focus on what’s good. Be kind.Volunteer often. Look down on others to only help them up. Love your neighbors as you love yourself.”

For more information about Nixon’s program, visit www.return2work.org.








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A Mother’s Love

Non-profit organization needs your donation to keep its mission alive.

“Thank you for your service,” the phrase civilians often use when they encounter military personnel, seems inadequate considering the sacrifices these warriors have made.

Please give lasting thanks by making a donation to Project: Return to Work Inc. (R2W). This national organization honors returning veterans by matching them with employers who need their skills. R2W’s unique approach slashes the job-search timeframe from months or even longer to just minutes compared to services provided by government agencies. Since 1998, R2W has helped thousands of returning vets, military spouses and disabled civilians find jobs commensurate with their skills, aptitudes, and interests.

Founded by former aerospace engineer Rob Brazell, his mother, Fran Nixon, and lifetime mentor, Malcolm D. Crawford, R2W was initially conceived to help people with disabilities. Brazell, who had recently recovered from a terminal illness, decided that “instead of building rockets and satellites I would start R2W to help myself and other disabled people transition back to employment and self-worth.”

Combining Nixon’s human resources and government background and Brazell’s technology prowess, the mother-son team launched the software-driven job search organization 17 years ago and gained a successful track record placing civilians. Brazell’s father, Ray, a WWII Marine, Uncle Floyd and Uncle Dale, a WWII Army Veteran, then helped expand R2W’s mission to include veterans—especially wounded warriors—and their spouses. Nixon, a state-certified vocational rehabilitation counselor in Florida, procured and fulfilled government contracts while Brazell, accompanied by the late Sargent Douglas “Bulldog” Dellinger, gave motivational speeches at military bases, prompting hundreds of injured soldiers to sign up for R2W’s innovative services.

“R2W’s achievements would have been impossible without the devotion of my mother, who not only nursed me back to health during my illness and helped me launch a model business but also came out of retirement to help save it years later”, Brazell says.

Four years ago Nixon, emerged from retirement again when a car accident left Brazell with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder—injuries identical to those of hundreds of the veterans R2W had served. Nixon has covered many of Brazell’s former duties since his accident, and this proud son credits his mother with keeping R2W afloat during his ongoing rehabilitation. On a personal note, Nixon purchased a puppy for her dog-loving son this Christmas, and she hopes to persuade the breeder to donate a puppy to a returning vet.

“Today R2W is thriving with fewer resources thanks to donated technology tools and bright young volunteers who understand how to use them,” says Brazell. “Without new funds, however, we’re in danger of losing grant money that is crucial to our mission. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation this holiday season.”


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In Loving Memory of Malcolm Douglas Crawford

(August 29, 1920 – May 6, 2014)

I am deeply saddened to inform our readers that Malcolm Douglas Crawford, R2W’s Treasurer and my lifelong mentor, passed away on May 6 after a long illness.

It is difficult for me to put into words the profound influence Malcolm Crawford has had upon my life, my career and the founding of R2W. The best place to start is with a brief summary of this extraordinary man’s background and achievements.

Malcolm Crawford was born in Nashville and later studied Economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Inspired by the geopolitical events of the era, he enrolled in the newly established Tufts-Harvard Fletcher School of Diplomacy, from which he received an MA in 1944. He then went to Yale Law School, from which he graduated with honors in 1947. He subsequently served as a consular official at the U.S. Embassies in London and Paris, assisting with postwar reconstruction efforts. He spent most of his professional life working as a securities and corporate attorney in Denver, and worked well into his late 80s.

When I was ready to make the leap from “Big Corporation USA” to my own company in the 1980s, Malcolm helped me form my aeronautics business. He taught me everything I know about private stock sales, as well as how to negotiate with multiple partners all vying for control. His generous guidance and counsel added greatly to the success of my aerospace business prior to my being diagnosed with a terminal illness. When I started to get better, Malcolm helped form, manage and operate R2W—including helping to recruit a blue-ribbon board and win our initial government contract. He continued to open doors and make difficult situations effortless for us over the years, never asking for anything in return.

Malcolm’s mentorship transcended private and public business endeavors. We talked about The New Deal, Adolf Hitler, and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. We talked about analogies in today’s world and how he might do things differently. He had a wonderfully reserved sense of humor—smiles and chuckles as opposed to big belly laughs. He was one of America’s greatest statesmen and philanthropists and I was extremely fortunate to have known him.

Malcolm is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Sheila Eigeman Crawford, and his five children and seven grandchildren. Please join me in remembering Malcolm Crawford for his gift of friendship, his generosity, kindness and intelligence.