|October 5, 2008|
Champions of Compassion Archive
Spectrum Resources is a non-profit organization, based in Des Moines, IA, that is dedicated to giving men and women the tools they need to rebuild their lives and become independent, productive members of society through basic job training and trade skills. Spectrum provides services that enhance intellectual, social, physical, and economic development.
Spectrum Resources won a competitively-awarded Labor Department grant in 2005 to provide transitional services to former prisoners under President George W. Bush’s Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, which was announced in the president’s 2004 "State of the Union" address.
Spectrum Resources works with many community partners to provide services to ex-offenders that include mentoring, job training, job placement and life skills. Through the first two years of services under the grant, Spectrum Resources has enrolled nearly 400 participants in its PRI program and has placed 83 percent of its participants into jobs. The one-year recidivism rate for program participants is currently less than half the national average.
Spectrum Resources is also a Beneficiary-Choice grantee and has been named by the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives a "Champion of Compassion."
View the news release.
You can visit the Employment and Training Administration's Prisoner Reentry Initiative page for more information on the PRI, including a map of grantee locations and contact information.
On January 29, 2008, President Bush visited the PRI grantee in Baltimore, Maryland. The Jericho Program, run by Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, serves non-violent adult male offenders who have been released from prison within the last six months. The President met with program graduates and gave a speech on the PRI as the seventh anniversary of his Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI). Over the past seven years, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Agency Centers it oversees have worked to strengthen both faith-based and non-religious service organizations and to extend their work in partnership with government.
Isaac Dobbs* said that when he was released from an eight-year prison sentence, he was alone, hungry, had no place to go, and no food to eat…but he was hopeful. In the first month after being released from prison, he applied for seventy-five jobs, but he heard nothing. No one even called him for an interview. His situation seemed uncertain and frightening, like being lost at sea during a storm. Luckily for Isaac, a local faith-based organization known as The Road Called STRATE (STRATE) became his lifesaver. STRATE is one of dozens of grassroots faith-based and community organizations funded by the Employment and Training Administration.
At STRATE, the staff helped Isaac fight substance abuse both through classes and through one-on-one mentoring. Isaac was able to enroll in a community college in a special 21-week vocational course that he recently finished in early July. During this time, he also participated in the 11-week course which covers topics such as relationship building, communication, and other skills necessary to thrive in the workplace. The STRATE staff worked hard to train Isaac and other clients to be ready for job interviews and, ultimately, job responsibilities. With the STRATE staff’s support, Isaac was able to find a job in the field of gang prevention.
Mr. Dobbs* is pushing forward to continue to improve himself and his opportunities. He has been participating in STRATE programs for over nine months, and he describes himself as a “work in progress.” He is so thankful for the help he received from the STRATE program that he is giving back to others by asking employers to hire ex-offenders who have gone through the program. He loves the opportunity to volunteer at STRATE.
The STRATE project—designed to help low income individuals, ex-offenders, veterans, immigrants, ethnic minorities, homeless individuals and at-risk youth—serve a remarkable number of people through their work. Their seven staff and multiple volunteers usually serve around 500 people each month, giving them a variety of services. In June alone, of the over 150 people that STRATE referred to receive Job search assistance, 72 spontaneously reported their success in obtaining a job. The average beginning hourly rate for the month of June was $9.12. In addition, STRATE gave post-secondary education or GED training to over 40 people. Aside from the employment focus, STRATE also distributed food boxes to 65 people and over 70 received clothing. We are proud to name the Road Called STRATE as this month’s Champion of Compassion.
SHARE Network Missouri marked a major milestone on June 1, 2007, by opening a dozen new SHARE Network Access Points (SNAPs) in St. Louis County and in the City of St. Louis. From elected officials to government staff to non-profit partners and their clients, the event clearly signified an important day for residents of St. Louis' urban and suburban communities. At every Access Point celebrated, people can go in their own neighborhoods to look for jobs, assisted by trained individuals who connect them to the One-Stop system via computer and direct referrals. Even before the official launch, two people found jobs through the Access Point at New Northside Baptist Church, which hosted a Ribbon Cutting ceremony attended by more than a dozen federal, state, and local leaders.
Greg Steinhoff, Director of Missouri's Department of Economic Development, commented on the "real collaboration" represented by the statewide SHARE Network, which, in the St. Louis area, has united two workforce areas, faith-based and community leaders, and the United Way in a common mission of increasing access to underserved communities. The partnership among the SHARE Network Missouri Team Members is a committed and dedicated partnership.
Computers, printers, technical assistance, and administrative support have been provided to each of the Access Points. These materials and support enhance the efficiency of these SNAPs in Missouri and continue to provide the resources to assist clientele with their various needs.
At the Grand Opening event, the President of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, Reverend Douglas Parham, showed his dedication and commitment to helping the community: "Our coalition churches have provided space with trained volunteers and we're ready to work to help address the workforce issues within the region."
Team Member Kathy Brown opened Missouri's first SHARE Network Access Point last December at a library in rural Hermitage, MO, and recently debuted her second SNAP at H.O.P.E. Coalition in Holden, MO. Missouri along with North Carolina currently lead the nation in the number of operational SNAPs.
The powerful SHARE Network Missouri Team is headed by Donna Prenger, DWD Administrator and Mark Bauer, director of DWD's Regional Coordinators.
Missouri is one of a number of states creating SHARE Network Access Points nationally. Other states include Michigan, Kansas, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana.
To learn more about Access Points and how they are implemented, please visit www.dol.gov/cfbci/accesspoints.htm.
Turning the TIDE, Inc. is a faith-based community technology-training center located in Philadelphia, PA. With support from one of the Department of Labor's Grassroots Grants, the organization offers technology training, employment services, and other support to returning ex-offenders, helping them secure employment and make a clean break with the challenges of their past.
Phillip* is one of many ex-offenders aided by Turning the TIDE that are now employed in solid jobs. He has held his post for more than six months now. Phillip's boss reports not only that he is a tremendous employee, but also that other younger employees with difficult backgrounds look to Phillip as a strong role model.
In addition, Phillip has been able to move out of shared living quarters and into a leased one-bedroom apartment. He has opened his own checking account and established credit at a local furniture store for a few items for his home. He's learning how to balance his checkbook for the first time. With a solid career ahead and a good place to live, Phillip's life is on an entirely different track than it was less than a year ago.
The One-Stop Partnership:
Turning the TIDE is an important part of Project ECHO, an initiative of the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board (PWIB). The effort is designed to build an infrastructure that links ex-offenders to the Pennsylvania CareerLink System via faith-based organizations.
While Turning the Tide has been a CareerLink Access Site for a number of years, their partnership has grown tremendously through their DOL grant. Turning the Tide plays an integral role in the CareerLink's efforts to reach and serve ex-offenders. The extent of the partnership can be seen in the fact that Turning the Tide even updates the CareerLink database's case notes on each participant it serves in conjunction with the One Stop case manager assigned to them.
*The name of the participant has been changed to preserve his privacy.
As a walk-in center for the homeless, the Lamb Center in Fairfax City, Virginia provides food, safety, drug and alcohol counseling and personalized attention and kindness to hundreds of homeless people every year. More than 50 local churches contribute to making the Lamb Center succeed. In 2006, the Lamb Center received a $23,068 sub-grant from the Northern Virginia Workforce Board/ SkillSource Group, Inc as part of a pilot grant from the USDOL. The Lamb Center used this small investment to transform the direction of the organization with its Striving Towards Employment Program (STEP). The Lamb Center had always been a trusted place, providing unconditional caring to people who were lost and alone. But with STEP, the Lamb Center began formally helping their "guests" transition to a whole new life through seeking and obtaining
"Each person who comes to the Lamb Center is different, has their own story and their own set of problems. One thing that virtually all of them have in common is that they do not believe in themselves. They've lost all hope... And how is somebody who has lost all hope going to present themselves to an employer and say "Hire me, I have value" if they don't value themselves? The first thing we are able to do is to help these people begin to understand that we care... through the Striving Towards Employment Program we were able to say not only do we care, but our partners care... this program proved to us we can work with the government and lives were transformed out of these partnerships." Bob Wyatt, Executive Director, Lamb Center
The Northern Virginia Workforce Board and its Skill-Source Group assisted the Lamb Center in developing their program and partnering with the One-Stop Career Center and local businesses. Participants would first meet with the Lamb Center program coordinator to design personalized plan, then attend group mentoring sessions and seek employment. Participants received incentive vouchers of $50 after 30 days of employment and $100 after 6 months of employment. The Lamb Center would refer and help participants use the One-Stop Career Center. Under this small grant, the Lamb Center placed more than 25 homeless adults and ex-offenders into employment at an average wage making $10/hour and began more than 40 others in the process towards employment. The funding from the grant funded the STEP staff members as well as the incentive gifts for participants. **As the grant ended in March 2007, the Lamb Center has secured enough private giving to sustain the program.
The Lamb Center is one of hundreds of thousands of grassroots faith-based and community organizations empowering people struggling to survive and to succeed. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has funded hundreds of small grassroots organizations directly and through sub-awards made by pilot Workforce Boards, such as Northern Virginia Workforce Boards. ETA also strongly encourages local Workforce Boards and One-Stop Career Centers to build partnerships with FBCOs at the local level.
** As with any government grant, no funding was used to support inherently religious activities such as Bible study and participation in inherently religious activities was entirely optional.
Karol is a single mother with a criminal record, a history of unstable housing and an erratic work history. She was mandated to the Children's Justice Alliance (CJA) Center for Family Success for parenting classes after release from prison. She was in recovery to overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol and habits of anti-social behavior. Karol attended support groups meetings three times per week and received support and other aid from CJA.
CJA's Center for Family Success helped Karol to secure part-time employment at a thrift store at minimum wage. CJA also linked Karol with a program at the WorkSource Center that provides short-term job training and connected Karol to a supportive housing community. Karol used this opportunity to renew her expired hairdressing/barber license.
CJA efforts helped Karol recognize that positive behaviors result in positive opportunity. Collaborative efforts between CJA's Center for Family Success, the One-Stop Center, and other community partners played a significant role in Karol's reintegrate into the community.
Karol is now president of a supportive communal housing facility for women in recovery called Oxford House, where she has been living for a year. After she attended classes for her hairdressing license, Karol was hired for a full-time position in a salon and built her own clientele. She has successfully held her position with the salon for a year. Her next move is to move back to where her mother lives and purchase a salon of her very own! The opportunity presented itself and Karol is courageously moving forward. Her daughter, who is living at the Boys and Girls Club since leaving foster care, is now free to move in with Karol.
Karol is motivated to do the best she can for her kids, so she can be a positive role model. When she is overwhelmed and doubtful, thinking about her past, she keeps repeating that it is never too late to do the right thing. Karol's faith and determination have been unshakable.