Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Finding Jobs in the Mile-High City

On a radiant summer morning in Denver this week, the magic of faith-based partnerships was on full display throughout a historic small church.  In one of the three rooms at Agape Christian Church, children from the neighborhood were enjoying a nutritious breakfast thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Feeding program. In the adjoining room, community members were working together at the computer lab, refining their resumes and discussing their job searches.

Job Club event at Agape Christian Church

Community leaders gathered at Agape Christian Church, housed in a building marking its 125th year, to learn about job clubs and explore new partnerships, August 1, 2012. (Photo by Ashley Gerwitz)

And in the last room at the church—the historic sanctuary built in 1887—the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership was hosting a Job Clubs and Career Ministries Symposium with 100 community leaders from across the Front Range.

For the past year-and-a-half, our center has been building civic partnerships with job clubs, career ministries, and job networking and support groups based at congregations, community centers, and coffee shops. Through these partnerships, we connect job clubs to the public workforce system overseen by the Department of Labor and others. We also work with community leaders interested in starting up new job clubs. Finally, we provide a venue at www.dol.gov/jobclubs where job club practitioners and others can find and communicate with each other and download tools and information.

Our event in Denver was part of a series of regional symposia we have been holding across the country that bring together job club leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, and government agencies to discuss their respective efforts in helping job seekers and to explore the formation of new partnerships.

Speakers at Job Club Event in Denver

Richard Krebs, center, talks about his job club, the 905 Group. To his right is Bob Schulz from the career ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church, and to his left is Meeka Houston of SHALOM Denver, August 1, 2012. (Photo by Ashley Gerwitz) (by Ashley Gerwitz)

One panel featured a diverse set of local job clubs, including The 905 Group, a volunteer-run networking group comprised primarily of executives from the Information Technology sector, and a program at SHALOM Denver, a division of Jewish Family Service of Colorado. We also heard from ministry leaders at Cherry Hills Community Church, Sacred Heart of Mary Church, and Agape Christian Church, who discussed the role that faith, motivation, and perseverance play in helping job seekers arrive at the right mindset for landing the job they love.   Additionally, staff from the Denver Office of Economic Development expressed interest in working with job clubs to recruit employers and job seekers for their on-the-job training programs.

We wrapped up the event with an inspirational presentation from Liz Ryan, a former human resources executive for a Fortune 500 company. Liz presented her “whole person job search” approach that provided valuable advice to those assisting job seekers.

Before the event ended, attendees were already scheduling follow-up meetings, brainstorming next steps, and forging new partnerships. These conversations were music to my ears, as they exemplified the added value of all of our federal faith-based and neighborhood partnership centers: connecting communities and catalyzing collaborations.

Ben Seigel is Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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