PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) - Thanks to an AmeriCorps grant, four veterans will take their skills from the service and use them in the Pine Bluff Police Department. This grant not only provides an opportunity to protect the community, it pays the bills and puts food on the table.
"It means everything for me to be able to provide for my children. I have three; two boys and a girl and her birthday is Christmas Eve," says Keith Banks an Army Vet from Malvern.
A big task is at hand this holiday season as Banks will purchase birthday presents and help Santa tie up any loose ends for his three children. Banks should be able to handle the holidays with ease this year thanks to a new job.
"The same thing I did in the military. I served my community in the military and the same here," says Banks.
Banks served in Iraq and spent the past 12 years as a military policeman. Banks, along with three other vets will now become cops for the Pine Bluff Police Department thanks to an AmeriCorps grant of more than $430,000. For Banks, the opportunity brings relief.
"I was concerned about the job situation like everybody else; I would see it on the news and everything," says Banks.
Jeremiah Stephens served in the Army National guard and will also benefit from the grant. He says getting back to work gives him peace of mind for his family.
"Man it helps out a whole lot because I've been out of a job for like four months. And this program that they have it's really helping me out, I have a young child on the way and it's really helping me out," says Stephens.
The grant pays for three years of salary and benefits for the four veterans. Chief Brenda Jones says they hope to keep the staff after the grant expires. For Banks, this new job means serving his home state.
"I used to live in Pine Bluff, actually my dad used to pastor at Mount Olive just outside the city limits so I'm familiar with it and I believe in the community," says Banks.
To qualify for this program vets must have served at least 180 days since 9/11.
Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus says the police department is at its highest capacity in history, with 155 officers. Chief Davis-Jones tells Today's THV the police department had to take on some costs associated with bringing the new officers, like paying for their uniforms.