A Grand Rapids nonprofit providing individuals with shelter, resources and re-engagement into the community has launched a new initiative to reduce barriers for those seeking employment.
Guiding Light Mission launched an employment agency initiative known as The Job Post in April to further its mission to help individuals re-engage in society.
The new employment agency currently operates out of Guiding Light Mission’s downtown headquarters at 255 S. Division Ave. and provides assistance not only to men involved in the mission’s recovery programs, but also to the larger community.
Stuart Ray, executive director at Guiding Light Mission and president of The Job Post, said the services provided by the employment agency are not exclusive to Guiding Light, and the organization is excited to be operating in this new arena.
“This would be in the same category as Manpower or Staffing Inc. or Workbox — this is open to anybody. We would go through the same normal process that any of our peers would go through in regard to an intake screening, application, background check, and making sure everyone is employment ready for the employer,” said Ray.
“We think this is where the nonprofit sector needs to head, and the board continues to put resources where they think they can make the most difference.”
Although The Job Post primarily connects job candidates with part-time positions with the intention of developing full-time employment in a typical “temp-to-hire” service, it also offers traditional temporary employment. Types of employment opportunities the new agency will focus on include light industrial, general labor positions, customer service and clerical work.
Christina Felan, vice president of The Job Post and experienced employment recruiter, said the hope is employers will see their partnership with The Job Post as part of their investment in the community.
“We’re going to place qualified, able candidates, but we hope our employer partners see the bigger picture and want to help make a difference,” said Felan.
Felan was hired in January to serve as the vice president of the employment agency to lead daily operations and has approximately eight years of experience in the industry. Since her appointment, she has developed business goals and identified companies willing to consider The Job Post candidates.
“I would like to think the core values of Guiding Light Mission are being implemented and can be seen by clients as they come through this process,” said Ray. “Obviously, this is about making some revenue for the mission, but this is also about helping people move forward. So there is a little bit of casework or social work that goes on at the same time.”
Guiding Light Mission’s revenue sources largely are derived from support from corporations, individual donations, foundations and churches, according to the organization’s annual report from July 2013 through June 30, 2014.
The organization had revenue of more than $2.5 million for the fiscal year ending June 2014 and roughly 75 percent of the funds were used for programming. Another 16 percent was allocated for development, and 9 percent was used for administrative purposes, according to the annual report.
The nonprofit also had more than 8,900 volunteer hours for the year, a value of roughly $198,000.
The revenue from job placement will be used to help sustain the new employment agency and Guiding Light Mission’s other programs, according to a press release. Although Guiding Light Mission has dealt with audits, Ray said a lot of the processes are new to the organization and he wanted to establish a solid foundation before accelerating the program.
“There is a lag between the invoicing and the employer paying, so we are not accustomed to paying workers’ compensation monthly or having a workers’ compensation audit monthly. There are some processes we are not accustomed to, so I said let’s take our time,” said Ray. “I would hate to trip over our shoelaces because we didn’t get the fundamentals done correctly.”
With the Guiding Light Mission’s board of directors’ approval of The Job Post earlier this year, Ray said the organization has been working to launch the initiative since the end of February and put its first employer on board in April. Since the launch, the focus has been on alerting local companies of the initiative.
“We are still in that gear-up stage. We have some back-and-forth with people at Hope Network, and we have some back-and-forth with some people at Workbox,” said Ray. “We want to be able to have some velocity: We want to make sure people are going to work if they want to go to work and if, for some reason, we don’t have enough employers in the queue, then we want to reach out and work collaboratively with other agencies.”
While working to launch the initiative, Ray said he spoke with well-known employers in the community to gauge feedback. The organization received positive encouragement from employers, and smaller nonprofits offered to help in some way as The Job Post began.
“We had great feedback from the half-dozen I talked with. They said this makes sense — ‘You shouldn’t always be totally dependent on the donor,’ and it is consistent with where the mission is headed with re-engagement and getting men back up on their feet and stopping this revolving door through Heartside,” said Ray.
“I think Guiding Light has done some good fundamental things to get this up and going. We are not going to be a million-dollar corporation the day after tomorrow.”
Guiding Light Mission’s strategic goal includes assisting individuals in re-engagement with the community, providing programs to make this happen, including: Guiding Light Recovery for men suffering from chronic homelessness, substance abuse, spiritual destitution and life challenges; Back to Work, which allows homeless men a short-term stay to save money while seeking full-time employment and permanent housing; and emergency services.
The Job Post is a continuation of the nonprofit’s mission to help men recover from their struggles and transition back into the community, and employment is a barrier for full re-engagement, according to Ray.
“At Guiding Light, the mission is really to help men find their God-given potential, and jobs are a part of that. We have been into transitional housing, and this is a foray into jobs,” said Ray. “Jobs and housing tend to be, from my world view, the two gaps here in the community, and if we are really serious about keeping people from the revolving door coming in and out of Heartside, we have to put our money where our mouth is.”
Guiding Light Mission’s long-term plan for The Job Post includes having a separate location from which to operate.
“For the employer, this is not social work at the employment side. This should be a normal employment arrangement,” said Ray. “We can do some things on this side to encourage, cheerlead and help folks along.”