I hope everyone is enjoying the mostly beautiful weather we have had so far this summer. Many of us take a break from work to participate in the activities that abound during the Alaskan summer. I have taken my three-year-old granddaughter to the playground at Cuddy Park.
As much as I enjoy my vacations, I also enjoy working.
Every person has different motivations for working and the reasons for working are as individual as the person. We work, in paid, unpaid or volunteer capacities, because we obtain something that we need from work. Work impacts our morale, motivation and the quality of our lives. People who experience significant barriers to employment, such as lack of education or a criminal history, do not have that positive aspect to their lives. At Brother Francis Shelter (BFS) we work with many in this situation. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds us, work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. The dignity of work and the rights of workers is one of the seven Catholic social teachings that our foundation at Catholic Social Services is built upon.
As many of you know, our Wilma Carr Charity Ball gala has been a successful fundraiser for Catholic Social Services (CSS) for many years, thanks in large part to a very committed event committee and generous attendees. I have had the pleasure to witness this community’s care and concern for the vulnerable at this event throughout my tenure at CSS. We were very excited this year when the Charity Ball Committee held a meeting at BFS and had an in-depth tour of the program. As a result, they chose improving our BFS Job Readiness Center as the “Together We Can” project for the Charity Ball 2014. The Lenten project that St. Patrick’s Parish sponsored also contributed to this important project.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” The funds raised at the 2014 Charity Ball and by St. Patrick’s have provided us the ability to produce excellence by creating a comprehensive resource center with an improved emphasis on employment. The center facilitates job readiness for BFS guests so they can set and achieve their employment goals. Working and being self-sufficient is tied to self-worth in our culture, and we do everything possible (for those who are physically and mentally able) to see that our shelter guests are successful in securing employment. We offer employment referrals, work clothes, funding for training, application and resume help and transportation so BFS clients can gain and retain a job.
The Job Readiness Center project includes: computers and work stations, industrial washing machines and dryers, industrial dishwasher, discretionary fund for training and facility improvements to make it an inviting and respectful space. The commercial and industrial equipment provides both in-house volunteer jobs and job training. This prepares clients for future employment in restaurants, hotels and other businesses such as hospitals.
Treating those who experience homelessness with dignity is of paramount importance and is integral to everything we do at Brother Francis Shelter. Honoring the dignity of work is an extension of our core value and belief in the ability of those we serve. Many of our guests may have a long journey back to full employment and self sufficiency but our new Job Readiness Center will help. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Many of our homeless brothers and sisters take that first step at Brother Francis Shelter thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit cssalaska.org.