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Paying it forward

John Jackson has always wanted to help people. He says helping people has been in his DNA since he was a kid growing up in a large family in Georgia.

After serving in the military as an inventory manager for the Air Force, one of his first jobs was to work for the Manzanita House, a community-based alternative to in-patient psychiatric care for people with psychiatric disabilities who are in psychological distress or crisis. He also worked with several organizations which provide resources and assistance to veterans like him in California, where he spent decades helping veterans.

But in 2009 during the recession, Jackson lost his job in California. With his background in so many different things like being a case manager for the county, working at a private organization for Vietnam veterans, working at a juvenile hall and with the homeless population, Jackson thought it would be easy to get a job with the state of California. But he said, “California was having major budget problems.”

Now it was someone else’s turn to help John Jackson.
At that time, the CBS television show “60 Minutes” featured a segment about unemployed and homeless veterans. Sims Metal Management of Memphis General Manager, Gary Hensley, watched the program which featured Veterans Village of San Diego to offer one of the veterans they work with a job.

Asked why he decided to call VVSD he replied, “I’m prior military myself and something just kind of clicked while I watched 60 Minutes. You sit back and think you want to help somebody but nine times out of ten you don’t. But something hit me so I emailed them right away.”

The organization reached out to John Jackson, who was using their employment resource center to polish his resume and asked if he wanted to relocate to Memphis. He said yes.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision having grown up in Georgia. Plus, being in the military, I was used to travelling and adapting to new circumstances,” said Jackson.

John Jackson moved here on January 16th and already sees a bright future here for him and his family, who will join him soon. He explains the differences between Memphis and cities in California:
“The housing prices are dramatically less [in Memphis] than they are in California and the people here tend to be friendlier—easier to engage. People in Memphis aren’t as hurried as they are in California. And the freeways are always packed [in California]--you could spend at least two and a half hours getting to work.”
SMM of Memphis is currently showing Jackson the internal operations and will give him his first project to lead in a couple of weeks. Jackson states, “It’s a very exciting industry because there are so many things about it that are interesting. This is a great group of people and they’re willing to help you succeed.”

Hensley states about hiring Jackson, “he’s an incredible person—smart, eager to learn which is what we needed. No one goes to college wanting to get in this business. If you’re in this industry, you have to go out and find your own talent.”

Sims Metal Management of Memphis, a member of the Greater Memphis Chamber, is a division of Sims Metal Management, the world’s largest metals and electronics recycler. The company has more than 230 locations on four continents and more than 6,000 employees.

-- Christina Meek

Posted: 3/14/2011 10:28:15 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: air, chamber, community, force, interest, Memphis, military, veterans

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (


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