Former Grantee Partner Continues To Drive Change In Their California Community - We Raise Foundation

Former Grantee Partner Continues to Drive Change In Their California Community


March 25, 2024, marked the end of a long journey for 38-year-old Jessica Howeth; but it was also the beginning of a future full of possibilities. This was the day when she finally received her high school diploma.

Jessica Howeth“Earning this diploma will give me more opportunities. There are so many things I would like to do as a career—animal science, agriculture, jail ministry. I definitely want to further my education,” Howeth reflected. “But I’m still working on myself. I want to strengthen my identity in Christ and share with others how to overcome barriers to long term success.”

Howeth dropped out of high school and spent nearly two decades battling addiction and incarceration. In 2022, she was ready for a change. Howeth enrolled in a recovery program and then applied for Restore Jobs, a former We Raise grant program that is an extension of Restore Merced—a Christian community development effort that focuses on creating opportunities for neighbors with barriers to employment of Merced, Calif.

Restore Jobs has acquired several public and private litter and graffiti abatement contracts to provide paid, meaningful employment for those encountering obstacles on the road back into the workforce. All participants take Christ-centered job readiness and financial literacy courses, receive one-on-one mentorship, and remove life roadblocks to long term success. Since its inception, Restore Jobs has served 160 people with approximately 30 trainees each year.

“Everyone involved, from staff to fellow workers, is like family. Restore Merced has been a strong foundation for me and affected my faith in a mighty way. It’s bringing a strong light into the Merced community, turning instability to stability,” said Howeth, who started out as a Restore Jobs crew member and has worked her way to a supervisory position. Each weekday morning, she huddles in prayer with all program trainees before heading out to do litter abatement and general clean up on the highways and around Merced County.

“Looking back at the last six years, I am left blown away by the impact of Restore Jobs,” said Matt St. Pierre, co-founder and executive director of Restore Merced. “I’m amazed at how God has woven together the relationships that we’ve forged with all our partners and neighbors. It’s clearly God who is behind it all.” St. Pierre’s leadership in driving change in his community led to We Raise’s investment with a two-year $15,000 Emerging Leader Grant in 2018.

St. Pierre appreciated the value-added component of the grant such as leadership development through seminars and coaching. “We Raise’s commitment gave us confidence that Restore Jobs was an important ministry from the beginning. I had incredible mentoring and built a network of like-minded people. Listening and learning from others who are doing the same has helped me grow personally and professionally.”

In pursuit of seeking sustainable change and stability, St. Pierre is working to reach more people and provide more opportunities as Restore Merced launches a Customer Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce social enterprise this year. Restore Merced is currently working with a local farmer to grow crops such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and wildflowers.

St. Pierre is no stranger to the agriculture industry as he grew up working on his family farm in Merced County. “I’m really excited about this new initiative. It will offer participants hands-on training in preparation for careers in the agriculture industry while Merced County residents will enjoy quality local produce. We hope to engage more people to interact with us as we plan to host various events at the farm in the future.”

Your generosity is empowering Restore Merced to be a catalyst for change as they continue working to break down barriers and provide meaningful work for Merced residents so they can thrive.


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