Jericho Road Ministries is all about helping the down-and-out create new lives after substance abuse, minimal law breaking or the loss of a home.
Now the non-profit agency has added a new self-help component to its rehabilitation program of Christian living, self-esteem building and re-entry to society.
The new program, called Jericho Community Services, gives those in need of temporary work jobs by offering a wide variety of services to individuals and businesses in the community. These services include landscape maintenance, mulching, pressure washing driveways and mobile homes, construction cleanup, gutter cleaning, and debris hauling.
The idea, says Chaplain Bruce Gimbel, is to give to people jobs and experience so they can enter the workforce with employable skills and resumes. In a stressed economy, jobs for the poor are almost non-existent, he said.
Many employers are skeptical about hiring workers who have had addiction problems or prior arrests, Gimbel said.
Some of the clients already have skills to perform these tasks. Others are being trained.
Gimbel says his agency's service fees are compatible with local businesses. Jericho, he said, does not intend to compete unfairly with professionals.
Jericho clients, typically a crew of two working full-time, five days a week, receive appropriate pay. A minimum portion of fees for the work is reserved for maintaining program equipment, Gimbel said, adding that the program is not devised as a profit maker.
John Mitten, Jericho's board president, said, "It's for someone struggling to get back in our community. I think of the program as a citizen restorative initiative. It's a great first step for those clients to get back into the work psyche.
"If they sit in one place too long, they get discouraged," explained John Mitten, Jericho's board president. "This (program) will reintegrate them into our community."
He added, "It's a win, win, win. The people in the community need services; clients have an opportunity to get a job; the money we receive from it helps to fund the ministry."
Ministry clients are urged to complete a 12-month rehabilitation, counseling, job training and spiritual growth program. They advance from phase to phase, passing several hurdles along the way, Mitten said. "Those who graduate do fairly well," he said.
Jericho has invested around $30,000 to purchase a truck, trailer and other equipment into this new venture. The funds came from its thrift store profits and from donations. Mitten noted the agency got some good prices from local businesses that have supported Jericho Road over the past 10 years.
So far, community response has been encouraging. Gimbel said the agency booked 15 jobs in May and between 20 to 25 in the first half of June. Some customers, both businesses and individuals, have signed on for weekly services.
The chaplain said, "We have other clients interested in being a part of this. If the community continues to bring us business, we would involve more clients and put another truck on the road."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]