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Program Graduates Find New Opportunities in Food Industry

FOCUS West Central PA is a local FOCUS community just west of Pittsburgh that works to meet community needs by engaging people in Christ’s call to serve. FOCUS West Central PA has offered many services over the years including summer feeding, community meals, a food pantry, and clothing closet. 

Beginning in March, 2021, FOCUS and the New Castle City Rescue Mission launched a new program serving Lawrence County, PA. The New Castle Rescue Mission exists to meet the physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs of hurting people in western Pennsylvania. They offer food services, shelter, and recovery programs. Working together as community partners, FOCUS and the Rescue Mission now offer a Food Manager Certification class for men at the Rescue Mission. The program includes ServSafe certification, as well as culinary training that covers basic knife skills, cooking techniques, recipe creation, and proper table service. Through launching this program, FOCUS hopes to help the men at the Rescue Mission learn employable skills and find jobs in the food industry. 

Anthony, a member of the program’s first graduating class, has already been offered a full time job as a chef. Another graduate, Bernie, is able to use his ServSafe certification to help reopen a local kitchen. 

“I didn’t know if I wanted a career or to work in Food service, but the director of our kitchen at church congratulated me on passing this certification program and said now since I’m ServSafe certified, they can reopen with my help,” Bernie said.

Thanks to FOCUS donors, the 8 week certification program will be offered to eligible participants at the Rescue Mission for FREE. 

St. Herman House Jobs Program Q&A

Q: What is St. Herman House Jobs Program?

A: The St. Herman House Jobs Program provides temporary employment to our shelter residents. The reasons for the program are multiple. For one, residents get back in the habit of working and prove to themselves that they can work. Second, the Jobs Program helps to cultivate and re-establish a work ethic that may have been lost by virtue of not being in the workforce for a long time. And third, it gives us (the staff of St Herman’s) an opportunity to assess whether someone can work, or whether he has issues that need to be addressed first. These could include mental health or substance use issues. 


Q: What are some of the issues that you’re referring to?

A: It can be everything from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder to developmental disabilities to unaddressed substance abuse. 


Q: What impact does the Jobs Program have on residents?

A: One of our residents went from temporary work in the Jobs Program to becoming a full-time employee, because the employer saw first-hand his work ethic and capabilities. For others, it has given them the dignity of being able to work and re-establish the connection between work and getting paid. 


Q: What’s one of the challenges in finding permanent employment?

A: Transportation is a big issue in Cleveland. Almost none of our residents have a car, and most of them will need to rely on public transportation even after they start earning an income. It’s not uncommon that a resident is working 8 hours a day and then spending 3-4 hours on busses, which can be pretty discouraging. 


Q: What are your hopes for the future of the program?

A: Our goal is to develop the financial resources to offer stipends to our residents for informal jobs they do at St. Herman’s. The residents of the shelter take on many responsibilities in the day-to-day running of the House. If we had the ability to offer stipends, we could begin to reward people for their hard work.

YES Initiatives Equip and Entrust…

YES Initiatives equip and entrust local student leaders with the vision and leadership of their own initiative. Each initiative is unique to the local context of the students and their communities. 

Young people in St. Louis recently organized a YES initiative. Together, YES participants hosted a Sleep-out event and raised $2,800 to support the Covenant House, a local non-profit organization in their area. To participate in the Sleep-out, the YES participants slept anywhere that was not in their bed for one night. They also came together for discussion and wrote letters to the residents at the Covenant House. They recently met to discuss what putting this program on meant for their group and how this can impact their community in the future. 

Learn more about YES Initiatives and Trips on the Youth Equipped to Serve website: 

Back to School 2021

Nearly 1.5 Million U.S. Students Experience An Episode Of Homelessness Every Year. These children who experience homelessness and instability are often missing what they need to succeed in school. 

Take action by starting a FOCUS Back to School FUNDRAISER or SUPPLY DRIVE in your community.  

Learn More: 

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