For many people, getting a job hinges on completing an application, possessing the right qualifications and interviewing well. But for others, roadblocks to employment often end the possibility of getting a job before they even apply, increasing their chances of experiencing poverty, domestic violence, divorce, homelessness, addiction, criminal activity and suicide.
After five years of getting to know people in Mobile and Baldwin counties who are stuck in this cycle, the staff of Ransom Ministries, which operates a donation-only restaurant called Ransom Cafe as well as the Clean Machine, a portable laundry and shower trailer that serves the homeless community, realized helping people find meaningful work would ultimately help them change their lives.
“We recognized that while helping people with food, laundry and showers is a great way to establish relationships and give people dignity in the moment, without a good job, people can’t break the cycle and get out of poverty,” says Matt Armbruster, founder of Ransom Ministries. “Then we started talking to people about why they weren’t working and we realized for some of them, it wasn’t for lack of trying — they just for whatever reason didn’t match what employers are searching for or didn’t cut it once they did get a job. Eventually after so much rejection, they stop applying.”
Out of this need, Ransom ReProgram was born. ReProgram, an 8-week job skills training program, utilizes Jobs for Life, an internationally-recognized curriculum that focuses on soft skills and the Biblical principles of work.
Molly Broders, ReProgram’s director, says getting to know the students and their struggles has forever changed the way she views unemployment.
“We have discovered there is still a form of modern day slavery for people who for one reason or another have a criminal record, debilitating debt or other problems,” Broders says. “Our participants wholeheartedly want a second chance to become productive members of our society, but are crippled by their past and have no means to overcome it alone — Ransom ReProgram strives to create a support network that will enable them to overcome these roadblocks.”
Ransom ReProgram classes are held twice a week at Ransom Ministries’ corporate office in Chickasaw. Participants also work on a volunteer basis for Ransom Ministries and participating local businesses.
In addition to the thorough curriculum and work experience, each participant is paired with a mentor, or Champion, who is committed to helping them get through the process.
“This is my first opportunity to do this kind of mentorship,” says Terry Stephan, a veteran volunteer in the Mobile community who is a Champion for the first ReProgram class. “It’s so encouraging to see my participant’s walls already coming down. To see his outlook change and his hope develop is already a better outcome than I’ve been able to see in so much volunteer work I’ve done in recent years.”
Upon graduation, 80 percent of Jobs for Life participants obtain employment.
“I just have a really good feeling about this,” says Aaron, a participant who has struggled to find a job for several years because of his criminal record. “Without this program, I wouldn’t be able to find out about any of these jobs or talk to anybody about my problems that prevent me from working. It means a lot to me because I’m seeing all these people put a lot of time and effort into this, and they’re just really happy to help us get back on our feet.”
Robert, whose criminal record is also a barrier, has been homeless for several months. He found out about ReProgram at Ransom Cafe and jumped at the opportunity.
“I am loving being able to work through this program — it has just about driven me crazy not to be able to work,” Robert says. “So far I’m learning to be more sure of myself. I’m learning I don’t have to look down on myself because of one mistake. Everyone’s made mistakes and deserves a second chance.”
The cost of the program is free and aid for transportation and childcare is available. Click here then click on “ReProgram” tab for an application. Adults who are under or unemployed, those who have struggled with addiction or have criminal history that prevents them from becoming employed are encouraged to join the class. Upcoming classes begin Oct. 20, Jan. 12, March 15 at Ransom Ministries, located at 320 S. Craft Highway in Chickasaw.
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