U.S. Navy veteran Toby Bollinger didn’t waste any time finding work soon after he arrived at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in November 2015. Within four days – after spending more than 70 days in jail for alcohol-related driving offenses – he was doing yard work for a local resident. A few weeks after that, he began working for the Asheville Fire Department as a phone salesman selling tickets to fundraising events.
Toby soon found his passion, however, when he began studying hospitality, first through Goodwill’s START program and then A-B Tech Community College’s associate’s degree program. Thanks to the support and encouragement of both ABCCM’s Veterans Services of the Carolinas and the VRQ, Toby recently completed his first year of classes. He was even named the winner of the Academic Award among students in the Hospitality Management area of the Division of Business and Hospitality.
“I was really shocked. I had never been invited to an academic awards reception before and they only pick one person from each department so that was really big,” said Toby, who also works two nights a week at the Holiday Inn Asheville Biltmore East, located on Tunnel Road near the VRQ. “I really like hotel work and working with people. I just like to make sure we’re doing our job to make their stay enjoyable.”
Toby will finish the academic year with better than a 3.72 grade point average, which he accomplished despite suffering injuries last fall in a traffic accident – he did not miss a day of school or work. He also worked toward earning back his driver’s license and was elected to serve on the VRQ’s Residents Council.
Toby was able to successfully leave the VRQ in May 2017 after he was hired for a coveted position as lodge manager at A-B Tech. In that job, he will manage six rooms that serve as training for students while also living in the facility. Toby will also able to keep his job at Holiday Inn.
He recently learned that he qualifies for a program that will support his education at a 4-year public university, where he intends to continue studying hospitality. Eventually he would like to run a resort somewhere in the Bahamas. Toby says he will always be grateful for the opportunities he had through ABCCM to help him become self-sufficient and transform his life.
“It’s the perfect starting ground. If you use it for what it’s intended to be used for, then it works perfectly,” he said. “For me, I came here because I knew there was structure, and I needed to get that back in my life. It can get you anywhere you want to go.”
Way to go Toby! What a great inspiration you are to so many at ABCCM. Want to learn more about how you can support these programs for our veterans?