By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT —Excitement was in the air and the cameras of supporters filled the room in celebration of the first cohort to graduate from the Fresh Start Opportunity Job Training Program on March 26. The event took place at the Jubilee Campus in the former St. Mary Parish Hall.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Christie Adamson, Assistant Director of Humility Homes & Services (HHSI), which runs the Fresh Start Center. The four graduates — James, Ricky, Kossi and Roger — “had resilient spirits. They supported and learned from each other,” Adamson said.
The 12-week Fresh Start Opportunity Job Training Program helps its participants set up for success. “These men have worked and they want to succeed,” said Patti Trapp, volunteer and training program manager.
The men learned the basics to prepare to return to the workforce after homelessness. Trapp said during the program’s first week the men learned how to develop good habits such as being on time, clocking in and out for work, learning to follow set break times and “how to get into the groove.”
The next six weeks focused on building skills and attitudes. After week six, each participant managed a section at the Fresh Start Donation Center for the rest of the program. “They needed to keep their area clean, learn how to organize, how to rotate displays, how to communicate with other section leaders and how to communicate with other volunteers. … We set them up for success, not failure,” she said.
She and others are talking with local employers to inform them about the program and the participants who are ready for placement. Many businesses require applicants to apply online, which is a challenge for people who do not have access to computers on a regular basis, Trapp said. “We just want to be able to get them in for an interview.”
At present, the job-training program receives private donations to pay the participants, said HHSI Finance Director Stephanie Kieffer. “We are looking at grants and other funding,” she noted.
During the graduation ceremony, the four graduates received recognition and a certificate of completion. Many of their supporters brought gifts to congratulate them.
James said he found out about HHSI through his friend Ricky, who also graduated from the program. The two volunteered at the Fresh Start Donation Center and learned about the job-training program while there. “They helped us work on our resumes, get identification cards and a Social Security card,” James said. He applied for a job through Sedona Staffing and hopes to have a job soon. HHSI “is doing great things,” he said.
Ricky thanked HHSI for being “generous and giving people like me my life back. I am so grateful. This is God’s will and not about me.” While waiting for a job offer, he continues to work at the donation center and hopes to be a mentor to other participants. He enjoys working there and knows a lot about the donation center’s setup. “I have an open mind and will benefit from this training. I believe in doing God’s will. He has a purpose and a plan for me.”
Kossi had the opportunity to enroll through his housing coordinator. “I was so excited.” He enjoyed working and taking a lead in the program and has his resume out for possible employment. “If it does not work out, I will try another.” He thanked HHSI for this opportunity. “They have been there for us.”
The day before graduation, Roger said a Hy-Vee store in Davenport offered him employment as a cook. “I love cooking — especially BBQ,” he said, a skill he began developing at age 15. He is excited to get back into workforce doing something he loves and hopes when the weather is warmer he will be able to run the outdoor grill.
The next cohort with five participants begins April 5, said Trapp. It is the second of four job-training cohort planned for 2021.