An alarming statistic keeps running through Daniela Petrilli’s mind. “There are nearly 50,000 homeless veterans on any given night in the United States,” she says. To her, the situation is a travesty that must end. “One of the many ways we can combat veterans’ homelessness is by helping them become employed.”
Petrilli ’02 recently founded the nonprofit Operation MCP (Making Careers Possible), which assists veterans and service members with résumé writing and interview preparation to help them transition from the military to the civilian workforce. “If I can help even one veteran after he or she fought for our country and for our freedoms, it will be so rewarding.” Operation MCP would like to help veterans find their ideal careers.
Petrilli, who works in human resources for the government during the day, decided to use her educational background and professional experience to start the nonprofit.
“Vets often need assistance translating their military work experience into layman terms when applying for jobs in the government or private sector,” she explains. “He or she could have managed a $50 million defense contract, or commanded an infantry battalion, but needs the resources to know how to explain it to a non-military employer.”
Helping veterans is an issue that hits close to home. Petrilli founded Operation MCP in honor of her father, the late Michael Carlo Petrilli, who served in Vietnam as sergeant in the United States Army. In the 1970s there were few resources to help veterans return to civilian life. Her father suffered from depression, anxiety and night terrors and self-medicated with alcohol, which caused his untimely death at 62. Growing up with an “emotionally unavailable father was certainly not easy. It was hard for him to be affectionate with my sister and me because he was angry most of the time,” she writes in a blog on her website. “My mom always worried about leaving my sister and me alone with him for fear he would drink instead of looking after us.”
Petrilli points out that it was not until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). She was angry with her father for a long time, but with the help of wonderful mental health professionals “was finally able to accept that his PTSD and alcoholism was not something he asked for, but a direct result of serving in war,” she writes.
She grew up in Springfield, New Jersey, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication arts with minors in marketing and psychology from Caldwell, then worked in publishing, television and public relations and received her Master of Arts degree in communication studies and leadership from Kean University. In 2008, she became certified in human resources studies by Cornell University. She remembers fondly her days at Caldwell. “I was the first person in my family to go to college. All of my professors were wonderful. I was involved in numerous activities. I was a cheerleader, member of the Marketing Association and the Student Government Association, and now I work for the government in human resources.” Her education in marketing, business and psychology is helping her today. “Studying marketing and business has helped me build my non-profit. Through minoring in psychology, I learned how to work with all types of people. I’ve also learned that using emotional intelligence to assist veterans in need is vital,” she says.
Operation MCP is planning events. The group is holding its launch party in Washington, D.C. in November and is looking forward to laying Christmas wreaths in early December at Arlington National Cemetery, something she and her friends have been doing for the last few years.
Petrilli is putting together her board of trustees and looking for volunteers with experience to work with the veterans or to help with outreach, marketing, or obtaining donors and sponsorships. “Washington, D.C., is a great base for the organization since there are so many veterans here,” she says. “It’s so important to give back. Veterans causes are near and dear to my heart.”