Last month as part of my internship with Goodwill I traveled to Jamaica, Queens to learn all about our Back to Work Program. The program helps individuals who face barriers to employment find and retain competitive employment positions. One important factor in the success of this program is the Resource Department. The department provides clients of the Back to Work Program with the information, guidance, resources and/or referrals they need to overcome their barriers to employment.
During my visit, I sat down with Resource Coordinator, Luis Aucapina to find out what the resource department is all about. Speaking with Mr. Aucapina, I could tell very quickly that he is passionate about the work he does.
“I love my job because every day is different. There’s always something to do and someone to help,” he said.
Luis says that the “barriers to employment” which many of our clients face fall into six main categories: housing, food, clothing/hygiene, legal, medical and education.
Whether it may be finding an interview appropriate outfit through partnerships with programs like Dress for Success or access to legal advice, Goodwill does everything our power to get clients “back to work.”
Case managers, who assist clients with their everyday needs, help connect clients to these resources. Joel Modeste, one of the case managers at Back to Work’s Jamaica location, says he works to help his clients in any way they may need.
“We want our clients to know they’re not alone here. We work hard to provide them any resources we have or connect them to someone who can.”
One tool that helps case managers to connect clients to their resources is a new computerized resource database, which staff members use at Back to Work.
Goodwill’s Executive Vice President of Human Services Linda Turner worked with Aucapina and Goodwill NY-NJ’s IT Department to develop the system, which allows case managers to type in a specific query such as “daycare” or “housing” and find resources Goodwill has used in the past.
Aucapina says the Back to Work program hopes to bring this database to a web-based format in the near future. The goal is that staff members in other Goodwill NY-NJ programs would be able to access the resource tool as well.
With the help of the resource department, many of our clients are able to create their own success stories at the Back to Work Program. One client, Coss Marte, started his time with Back to Work in an internship program, one of the many services offered to help young adults strive for employment.
Coss, who was previously incarcerated, decided to change his life in prison by getting in shape and helping fellow inmates to do the same. After losing 70 pounds and getting released from prison, Coss decided he wanted to start his own fitness program to help other people change their own lives.
With the help of the Back to Work internship program, Coss connected with Defy Ventures, a program which helps aspiring entrepreneurs with criminal histories. Now, Coss has his own business, “Coss Athletics” which helps clients across New York City to get in shape.
Coss’ success story and our Back to Work Resource Program are just a few examples of how Goodwill empowers our clients through the power of work every day. To learn more about our other workforce development programs, visit our website.
The Back to Work Program is located at 92-31 Union Hall Street in Jamaica, Queens. You can contact the center at 718-433-1695.
Alyssa Raiola is a Journalism student at Northwestern University where she spends her time writing for campus publications, searching for new restaurants, and picking the perfect Instagram filters. Although she loves jogging along Lake Michigan and exploring the Windy City, her heart lies back home in New Jersey where pizza is the right shape and bagels are a delicacy. This summer, she’s back in the Big Apple interning and blogging with Goodwill Industries before she heads off to Seville, Spain to study abroad for the fall semester.
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