Less than two hours into my new position as External Affairs Officer at United Way of Greater New Haven, I got a first-hand glimpse Tuesday at the powerful impact programs we support can make in people’s lives.
I was fortunate my first day on the job to visit Emerge, a program that helps put ex-offenders back to work and, more importantly, form a solid foundation and network of confidantes that allow them to maintain a stable life outside of prison. We visited an Emerge work crew at one of their job sites, a New Haven home where they were doing everything from installing insulation in the basement to building a backyard stone wall.
It was inspiring to hear how passionately the program’s leaders and participants feel, not only about the marketable job-related skills the program teaches, but also about the valuable life skills gained on the job. Participants haven’t just learned how to work on homes and industrial buildings, but also – and more importantly – how to take direction from a supervisor, how to work as a team, how to develop a strong work ethic and how to be accountable to coworkers and superiors. For many, it’s a sense of responsibility they haven’t had before, according to program organizers.
Each of the half-dozen or so workers on the Emerge crew took great pride in their work. When asked why they have stuck with the program, all said they enjoy the sense of “family” the work crew gives them, and several spoke of feeling uplifted when they wake up in the morning and know they are going to a job where they are a part of something positive. Several attributed the program directly with keeping them off the streets and on a more positive path. It was truly inspiring!
I look forward to more visits like this one, where I can learn and see first-hand the impact United Way support and funding is making in our community. And, in my capacity as external affairs director, I look forward to sharing more of these stories with the public!