Manatee Women Veterans Prevent Homelessness

Scott and Gnos in front of Turning PointsBoth Maria Rodriguez-Gnos and Michelle Scott joined the Army when others told them they could never do it. Both work for Turning Points, which provides basic services to help people living in Manatee County avoid homelessness through rental and utility assistance.

Hearing stories involving travel and meeting people from several uncles and male cousins who were in the service, Rodriguez-Gnos yearned for the same opportunity, but her traditional Hispanic parents were against it. So without telling mom and dad, she enlisted in the Army at age 20 and set off to basic training at Fort Leonardwood, MO, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, TX.

“It was very scandalous and my parents were not happy with me. But I was always a rebel,” said Rodriguez-Gnos.

Maria Rodriguez-Gnos stands in front of Turning PointsThe Army turned into a 20-year career for Rodriguez-Gnos, where she rose to the rank of Major. She began as Patient Administration Specialist. Later she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Military Police Corp through the Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC) program at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where she earned a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education. In May 2005, she earned her Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning Summa Cum Laude through Touro College.

Her leadership positions, include Battalion Assistant Operations Officer; Battle Captain/Liaison Officer, 716th Military Police Battalion Kosovo; Company Commander; Deputy Provost Marshal/Operations Officer; First Army Observer, Controller/Trainer, Multi-National Force Iraq Task Force 134, Camp Bucca, Iraq; and Police Transition Team/Operation Enduring Freedom Officer in Charge, Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Maria Rodriguez-Gnos in the ArmyRodriguez-Gnos’ experience includes the publication "Center for Army Lessons Learned Publication 14-10, Chapter 13- Integrating Female Engagement Teams into Displaced Persons, Refugees and Evacuees Operations." And her experience as a soldier, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with men to push back the Taliban, was chronicled in USA Today editor Eileen Rivers’ Beyond the Call: Three Women on the Front Lines in Afghanistan (2018).

After all of this, one simple lesson learned sticks out most in Rodriguez-Gnos’ mind: Always make your bed.

“Something so menial as this sets you up for the entire day,” said Rodrigues-Gnos. She adds a couple of more lessons learned, “Listen to and include your subordinates in the planning. Rehearsal, rehearsals, rehearsals. Inspect what you expect.”

In June 2015, the Bronx native retired and relocated to Bradenton where she worked as a substitute teacher and ESOL (English as a Second Language) paraprofessional for the School District of Manatee County while raising her children. Although Rodriguez-Gnos just started a new position as the Human Resources Manager for Trojan Powder Coating Company, she plans to continue to volunteer for Turning Points.

Rodriguez-Gnos cites the military for giving her the tools to take on this new role, especially because it enabled her to work with people from different backgrounds, cultures, generations and personalities.

“It taught me to listen to other perspectives and gave me the understanding that not everyone will get along, however, we are part of a bigger picture, and it takes each of us to achieve mission success/company goals and objectives,” said Rodriguez-Gnos.

Michelle Scott poses in front of Turning PointsMichelle Scott, who started last year at Turning Points Housing Specialist, who was born and raised in Trinidad, was told by family and friends hat she couldn’t join because of her age.

“Everyone told me I couldn’t because I was older and had just had a baby. I love a challenge,” said Scott.

Scott served for 10 years, reaching the rank of Sergeant as a Construction Engineer, stationed in Germany mainly.

Scott is able to pull from her experience in the military to help those who come to Turning Points for help. She can relate because the military teaches you to trust and rely on others for support from time to time.

“The Army has helped me look at the challenges that life can sometimes throw at me and not be afraid because I know if I can survive what came with my military service, then I can survive anything. The main lesson that I learned is that I’m stronger than I ever knew. I can do anything I put my mind to, I can face any obstacle that life throws at me head on and that it is okay to depend on others for your safety,” said Scott.

Last month, Scott was promoted to the Yellow Ribbon Program Case Manager, where she is focusing on helping Veterans maintain stable housing after temporary assistance ends.

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