2013-06-26 / Columns

Programs are available to help those who wish to work

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
MARLA MEYERS
Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”— Albert Einstein

Less than one month from now, something truly inspiring will take place. On July 18, individuals with special needs who participated in JFCS’ Soups and Sweets program will be graduating. The Soups and Sweets program is a collaboration between the JFCS Special Needs Department and Cong. Beth El. The participants are the first generation of graduates of the six-month curriculum, designed to teach food preparation and kitchen management skills, to prepare individuals for gainful employment in the restaurant, food service or hospitality industry.

This past January marked the launch of this groundbreaking program, and twice weekly since, participants have brought their determination and ambition to the Cong. Beth El kitchen in order to learn from Chef Louis Ruttenberg. The program not only teaches transferrable job skills, it also dually meets the needs of seniors, who enjoy the soups and dessert creations that compliment main courses served through the JFCS Kosher Meals-on-Wheels program.

While graduates have learned valuable practical skills, such as following recipes, food preparation, knife skills, measurements, inventory and sanitation— that is not the extent of their education. The graduation confirms and certifies that these hardworking and driven young adults have satisfied the course requirements. And, it also means that they will be presented with much more—opportunity, open doors, and wide horizons of hope.

As they look forward to a sea of possibility in the workforce, we look forward to many more graduates just like them over the years to come, spreading their wings and realizing their full potential. Already, participants have enjoyed a visit from representatives of potential employer Sodexo, who were thoroughly impressed.

The capacity at which JFCS is rising to meet the need for vocational and professional training and guidance doesn’t end there. Employment uncertainty and financial woes are being felt in a serious way throughout the demographics JFCS serves. While some individuals may face challenges of a mental or physical capacity, there are others who battle this economic crisis and are trying to fortify their dwindling retirement funds, recapture lost savings, and revive their dreams for a better future.

There are the stay-at-home mothers who have never worked before—and due to cutbacks in their partner’s hours must suddenly take a job in order to afford food. There are those who have been in the same line of work for decades—and at 60 years old are being laid-off before they can properly retire. These “mature workers” can find themselves having to learn a new skill and continuing to work because their pension or social security “just won’t cover things.” JFCS’ no-cost career counseling, entrepreneurial seminars, and skills training through the Stan Kessler Entrepreneurial and Career Counseling Services program are answering that call.

Hundreds of community members have been able to find their way to employment, finetune professional skills and learn new technologies that help make them more marketable and confident in the workforce. Others have found solace in our Back-to- Work groups as they talk about the emotional impacts taking a toll on the very self-esteem and confidence they need to get back into the workforce.

JFCS looks forward to continuing to create opportunities for each and every person to realize hopes, dreams and potential. We’d like you to join us on that journey by asking you to refer your friends and loved ones who may benefit from one of these invaluable programs. Or, perhaps you are a restaurateur or a professional in the hospitality industry who would welcome a hard-working graduate from our Soups and Sweets program to add to your team. Together, we can all be catalysts for change and we can actualize a better world.

For more information on Soups and Sweets or the Stan Kessler Entrepreneurial and Career Counseling Program, please call 856-424-1333. . mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

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