Unsung Hero Honoree: Ivan Mason
Ivan Mason, Executive Director for U.S.VETS – Los Angeles, has been recognized by Ford Motor Company for his outstanding accomplishments, and has been selected to be awarded as a Ford Freedom Unsung honoree!
Ford Freedom Unsung salutes and honors those who have positively impacted communities and whose achievements serve to enlighten and inspire others. Awards are presented to individuals in the areas of community, education, military and youth. Honorees in each category are selected based on outstanding accomplishment including unique and valiant acts that positively impact lives in their immediate or widespread community. Honoree’s actions affect many and impart triumphant outcomes.
Ivan Mason is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Like many veterans, he struggled with transition back into civilian life and ended up in a cycle of addiction, homelessness and incarceration. In 1997 he made a decision to turn his life around. He entered U.S. VETS – Los Angeles and quickly became a mentor for other veterans. Ivan found his calling, discovering a passion for helping fellow veterans.
Ivan first excelled as an AmeriCorps Member then became the Outreach Coordinator. Shortly after taking that position, a federal agency conducted an audit and commented that the program was “exceeding all goals and expectations.” The auditor’s one curiosity was “how was Ivan, an articulate, well-dressed gentleman, able to get so many homeless veterans to trust him and turn their lives around?” Ivan explained that he was once in those veterans’ shoes.
Ivan held many positions with U.S. VETS: case management/counseling, program development and site management. He was the developer and director of the Father’s Program helping noncustodial fathers work out child support payments and assume more active roles in their children’s lives. He directed the Riverside facility, managing a property and staff to provide services to more than 120 homeless veterans each day. He was the first choice to start up a new site in Compton where he managed a property and staff while establishing the community networks necessary to serve a special population of paroled veterans and ensure their successful transition.
Ivan’s tenure came full circle when he was appointed the Executive Director of U.S. VETS – Los Angeles, the large U.S.VETS site which provides housing and services to more than 550 veterans daily. Under his leadership, the site has innovated services, shifting from only serving homeless veterans to serving all veterans, including veteran families.
For Ivan, decisions always come back to “will this help our veterans?” If the answer is “no” then it doesn’t get his attention. Ivan is quick to give credit for the success of U.S. VETS – Los Angeles to his team, but his leadership is at the center of that success. He empowers his staff and the trust he puts in them has engendered fierce loyalty to him, the program and the mantra of “serving those who served.”
Despite all the demands for his time, Ivan continues to have an open door to any veteran in need of an ear. His dedication to helping veterans is unwavering, and 15 years into his career, he still takes time to mentor individual veterans.
Ivan also achieved personal goals for education earning his Bachelor’s degree then a Master’s in Public Administration from California State University-Long Beach. Ivan is a husband and active father to his young son, Jonathan.