LSMNJ Delivers a Hand Up
By Heather Kato, Marketing Manager LSMNJ
It’s somewhat hard to believe how often one can encounter smiling faces among the dozens of people that come to New Visions Homeless Day Shelter in Camden. Many of those you meet do not have jobs, or a permanent place to live—yet so many still greet you with a smile and a kind ‘hello’ each time you walk through the door.
One especially memorable person in particular is George. For years I’ve been coming to New Visions for various work-related tasks such as taking photographs and capturing video of volunteer groups. George was a familiar face, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I asked him to participate in a video we were shooting for an upcoming fundraising event—where proceeds from the event would benefit the shelter. When I approached him to be part of the video, he flashed a sheepish smile and agreed softly. He took a seat and waited for the camera to begin rolling.
“Hi. My name is George. I’m an unemployed plumber.” He seemed very at ease with sharing his story. He was working at New Visions through the state’s welfare work assistance program, known as CWEP, (Community Worker Employment Program). “I only have to volunteer 10 hours a week, but instead I do 35 hours, because I feel at home here – helping everybody.”
After that interview, I knew that George was a hard worker and had specific personal goals he wanted to reach. The following year, George was able to secure temporary work at a nursing home in food service and also at Joseph’s House Café, an overnight shelter for Camden’s homeless.
Fast forward to this past May, 2016. Once again I was at New Visions for work. However, this time I was volunteering alongside co-workers to serve breakfast to the clients. I took a moment to catch up with George to see how he was doing. He was so excited to tell me that he had recently started working in a temporary position for LSM of Camden, one of LSMNJ’s affordable family housing programs. “They needed someone to fill in and offered me the job. I really like working with everyone there,” he shared.
I later reached out to Anthony Coniglio, LSMNJ’s executive director of housing, to find out more. He explained that he had conferred with others within LSMNJ about ways to provide job assistance to clients of New Visions. When the temporary position with general building maintenance became available at LSM Camden, Anthony felt it was a great opportunity for someone at New Visions. He reached out to Kevin Moran, executive director at New Visions, who then recommended George.
“I really like the job,” explains George. “I’m able to use my experience as a plumber and also help with general maintenance tasks like landscaping too.” And as for New Visions, George still volunteers there on the days he’s not working at LSM Camden.
I asked George what his goals were. He replied that there are four things he wanted, and that he has already achieved three of them. “I’ve been able to get a cell phone, a bus pass for transportation, and I have opened a savings account,” he explained as he jokingly stated that a checking account is ‘dangerous.’ He added, “My final goal is to save enough money to get my own place.”
“Oh, here you go,” he said as he handed me a small white card. “Now that I have a cell phone, I even had these business cards printed for anyone who needs light maintenance or plumbing work.”
I don’t doubt for a minute that George will be turning the key to enter his own apartment before 2016 comes to an end. He certainly has the determination to do it. I’m looking forward to writing stories about George as he transitions to a home of his own.