Loaves & Fishes Community Services and 360 Youth Services have created a unique partnership to assist young men, ages 18-24, in the 360 Youth Services transitional housing program who lack the credentials and experience necessary to be competitive candidates in the workforce. These youth face many challenges in their quest for self-sufficiency, including unemployment. Since Loaves & Fishes relies on volunteers every day for a variety of tasks at its busy distribution facility, this program provides 360 Youth Services’ clients, who generally have little to no employment experience, an opportunity to acquire important skills they will need when they become employed.Thanks to a newly created employment training program, both groups are receiving the help they need. According to Damir Djidic, Transitional Housing Coordinator for 360 Youth Services, the young men will volunteer 100 hours of community service to Loaves & Fishes over a period of 90 days, usually working about ten hours per week. This allows them to continue their job search or attend school during the rest of the week. Loaves & Fishes has a wide variety of volunteer positions requiring an assortment of skills. “The individuals who participate in this program go through training in all of the volunteer positions that Loaves & Fishes has to offer, with the focus on improving their work ethic and soft skills,” Djidic said. Loaves & Fishes staff provide mentoring and training to the young adults on how to receive donations, stock shelves, and operate warehouse equipment. Clients will receive feedback in the form of three reviews evaluating their progress in learning the skills needed to succeed in the highly competitive job market. At the end of the program, each will receive a certificate of completion and, hopefully, an excellent reference.
Amari is the first 360 Youth Services client to graduate from the program. He began his volunteer service in January and is now employed. He found his time at Loaves & Fishes valuable in learning about the expectations of an employer. “I enjoyed my work at Loaves & Fishes,” he said. “The people were great and I learned a lot. I want to come back and help whenever I can.” Operations Manager Cary Gilkey praised Amari’s growth throughout the program. He said the young man “had a great work ethic and got along with everyone well.” Gilkey added that staff and volunteers are looking forward to working with the next clients in this partnership. Charles McLimans, Loaves & Fishes Executive Director/CEO, also is pleased about the partnership. “The job market is extremely competitive and these youth lack the credentials to succeed,” he said. “This innovative partnership with 360 Youth Services aligns with the part of our mission that focuses on empowering people to become self-sufficient. In return, it provides Loaves & Fishes with additional motivated volunteers.” Ron Hume, 360 Youth Services Executive Director, agrees. “Our young adults face many challenges in their efforts to be independent, including unemployment. If we can provide them with the skills they need and have a positive experience in the workplace, then we have set them on a path to be successful.”