HomeReal EstateLocal NewsMarisa Estrella Wins the First of Three Awards to Support Veteran Small...

Marisa Estrella Wins the First of Three Awards to Support Veteran Small Business Owners

On November 3, 2022, Citizens Financial Group and Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) awarded Marisa Estrella, Former U.S. Army Specialist and founder of Worldwide Veterans and Family Services (WVFS), with its first $300,000 grant geared towards helping veteran-owned small businesses in the Bronx. Estrella, who served as a Chaplain Assistant in the United States Army, now works to provide both transitional and permanent housing solutions for homeless veterans and their families in the New York Metropolitan area, focusing on the Bronx.

Ken Eakes, Executive Director at MWSF, noted that “there are many hurdles to overcome while running a small business and operating in a borough like the Bronx, where recovery has been stalled. Citizens and MWSF have a track record of supporting small businesses and seeing the results of our support extend to the communities around them.” The award will help business owners like Estrella further develop their mission to help veterans.

Military Warriors Support Foundation and Citizens Award

Citizens and MWSF teamed up to provide three awards to veterans who operate small businesses in the Bronx. Citizens Financial Group provides various retail and commercial banking products to consumers, from individuals to large corporations and institutions. Citizens follows through on efforts to support robust New York City communities with initiatives like their Workforce Development Program in Queens and Chinatown Renewal Fund.

The institution and non-profit, which have worked together for eight years, provide the largest corporate grant for veterans in the Bronx. Citizen’s Head of Consumer Banking, Brendan Coughlin, remarks that they have “a long-standing commitment to supporting veterans, particularly in under-served communities where small businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic.”

At this time, community members can also donate non-perishable food items for Worldwide Veterans and Family Services at all Citizens locations in the Bronx.

Who is Military Warriors Support Foundation?

MWSF, founded in 2007 by Leroy Sisco, is a 501c3 non-profit charity that assists Combat-Wounded Heroes and Gold Star Families with housing, transportation, leadership development, and outdoor recreation. For the past fifteen years, their focus on housing and homeownership has helped veterans acquire mortgage-free homes.

One of their programs, Hope4Heroes, specifically helps veterans develop their small businesses. “Hope4Heroes is an extraordinary initiative helping veterans all across the country, and we are proud to partner with Citizens to bring the program to the Bronx,” Eakes notes.

$300,000 Grant for Veteran Small Businesses in the Bronx

The $300,000 grant provides recipients tailored support and resources to strengthen their veteran-owned small businesses. With the grant, owners can renovate their storefronts, implement new technology and training programs, and receive a full year of financial mentorship.

While the program awarded its first recipient this week, eligible applicants can continue to submit through the end of 2022.

Marisa Estrella Wins

Estrella received the program’s first award this week, which provides her with funding to further develop her small business, WVFS. Estrella, who served in the US Army from 1997 through her honorable discharge in 2006, now works to help veterans who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness lead a dignified life.

On winning the award, Estrella remarks, “I am grateful for this amazing grant and invaluable support for my business, and I want to thank Citizens and MWSF for making this happen. The Bronx is my home, and I am proud to start here, serving veterans in my neighborhood. Rehabilitation of low-income veterans is critical to help them transition to civilian life and continue contributing to their communities. My goal is to help homeless or at-risk veterans have better and dignified lives. Citizens and MWSF are helping make my vision a reality.”

What is Worldwide Veterans and Family Services?

WVFS is a 501c3 non-profit charity that helps veterans with various services like counseling and referrals, emergency funds, and transitional and permanent housing solutions to individuals and families in the Bronx. By fostering a strong community through a veterans-helping-veterans approach, the team continues to provide services emphasizing dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency.

Those interested in supporting WVFS can click here to donate directly or learn about other opportunities to help.

Items in the Award

With the $300,000 grant, Estrella received the following:

  • 2023 Ford Transit Cargo Van and 1 year of commercial insurance
  • 1-year financial mentorship
  • Tech to help her succeed
  • Two laptops and an all-in-one printer
  • Accounting software, Quickbooks for Non-profits
  • $1,000 in a gas card

Information for Prospective Applicants

Veterans in the Bronx who own small businesses can continue to apply for the program through the end of the year. Applicants must demonstrate honorable character and service and can click here to learn more and apply.

The program will continue to award two more recipients before closing applications for this year. Recipients will receive an award tailored to their specific needs, potentially including material support and equipment, website design, storefront improvements, and other needs as deemed fit.