Veteran Community Initiatives, Inc. (VCI)
“Serving Veterans and their families in the Laurel Highlands/Southern
Alleghenies community since 1993”
Originally from Mineral Point, PA, Josh joined the Marine Corps in May 2001. For nearly 14 years, he served as a Combat Correspondent working in print, photography, videography, radio and television. His job was to tell the stories of the courageous men and women in uniform he was fortunate to witness. His assignments, both stateside and abroad, gave him the opportunity to see America’s finest during training, humanitarian aid missions, and combat operations.
His duties offered him the opportunity to serve alongside all branches of our military, as well as the many civilians who work within the Department of Defense. He’s interviewed everyone from entry level military recruits, to front line combatant commanders, wounded warriors, the Secretary of Defense, NATO Secretary General, the First Lady of the United States, numerous celebrities, and more.
After his military service, he decided to relocate to his hometown region, returning with the skills he learned in the Marine Corps in an effort to give back to the community which made him who he is.
From April 2016 – March 2019, he worked as the Cambria County Director of Veteran Services, helping our area veterans and their families access the benefits they’ve earned.
He currently resides in Hollsopple, PA, with his wife and four children.
Awards & Decoration:
Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy & Marine Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3rd award), Iraq Campaign Medal (w/ 2 stars), Humanitarian Aid Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2nd award), National Defense Service Medal, and a Thomas Jefferson Award for Outstanding Flagship Television Program
VCI offers internship programs for local college students to attend. Students can learn about VCI services and programs for veterans and their families, assisting with program support and marketing projects.
Mary Heider-- Administrative Assistant
Mary assists with all the administrative duties, as well as scheduling appointments, donor letters, and financial assistance on reports etc. Mary has 20 years experience working in an office setting is great with the veterans and assisting them when they need help.
Tom is the founder, President/Director of Veteran Community Initiatives Inc. (VCI) since 1993. VCI has serviced over 8,900 (veterans, family members of vets, dislocated workers) clients in job search assistance and career counseling in the PA Laurel Highlands.
A United States Army Vietnam Veteran, Tom has been involved with many veteran/ disabled community projects and groups including the Lead Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Disabled Veterans Rehabilitation/Vocational Retraining Project (PDVR/VRP), a comprehensive community program that addresses the needs of returning veterans since 2005.
Tom has been active with many veteran service organizations (VSO’s) as a member of the American Legion VFW, PVA, Conemaugh Valley Veterans, and as former officer/board member with the PA Vietnam Veterans of America State Council and VVA Chapter 364. For over twenty-two (22) years Tom has been visiting and working with veterans incarcerated at SCI Cresson; preparing and serving the Salvation Army Christmas Dinner in Johnstown with other chapter members; establishing scholarship stipends to sons and daughters of Vietnam Era Veterans. An original member of the Conemaugh Valley Veterans, he has been involved in the Veterans Day Parade and Veterans Day Breakfast as well as the 2008 Salute to WW II Veterans Recognition Ceremony. Active in the community and state, Tom (appointed by Governor Rendell) sits on the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) Board. A former member of the Cambria County Private Industry Council, Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority, SKILLS Group Board of Directors, the PAID Board, and the Cambria County Special Olympics Board, Tom currently is on the SCI Cresson Vocational Advisory Board, Van Zandt’s VA Medical Centers Veterans Advisory Council, CERMUSA Advisory Board, Defense Veterans Brain Injury Center – Johnstown as Board Chairman, Penn Highlands Community College/John P. Murtha Scholarship Committee Chairman, and is a member of the Cambria County Business and Education Consortia as well. .
Recent recognition and awards include 1990 VVA Chapter 364 Veteran of the Year, 1994 SCI Cresson Volunteer of the Year, 1997 Cambria County Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year, 2001 “Chapel of the Four Chaplains” Award Honoree, 2005 Pennsylvania VVA “Veteran of the Year,” 2006 PAID “Outstanding Service Award,” 2008 Johnstown Magazine’s “Movers and Shakers” recognition, 2011 Salvation Army ‘Appreciation’ Award. Tom’s employment history includes 25 years in the Human Resources/Labor Relations/Program Management area with large utility organizations.
He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, with a BS in Business Administration. With the help of the GI Bill, Tom was fortunate to receive an MBA in Labor-Management Relations from Pace University. If you have any questions or concerns for Tom please Email him at email@example.com
Amber serves as a Program Specialist and works on key events that VCI offers throughout the year. Amber is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for nearly eight years- five years on active duty as a Military Police Officer, where she deployed to Iraq, and three years in the Reserves as an Information Technology Specialist. Her background also includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
Nancy Tavalsky--Case Manager
Nancy will be available to veterans for claims, service connected disabilities, veteran non-service related pensions, windows non-service pensions, aid and attendance benefits, discharge inquiries/upgrades and other veteran related entitlements and issues.
Her office hours presently (effective immediately) will be on Wednesdays from 9:00am-4:00pm. Confirmed reservations/time frames are highly suggested. Nancy can be reached at 814-244-6125 (Wednesday's ONLY). If Nancy is not available please leave a message or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy brings with her a wealth of knowledge, and experience on these subjects, and will prove to be an asset to those who may have difficulty getting to other locations for these services.
Nancy is employed by the Vietnam Veterans of American –(VVA) and is available by appointment on Wednesdays ONLY in the VCI offices.
Josh Hauser--Community Operations Director
Amber Wilson-- Program Specialist