Restore Jobs Restores Dignity through Meaningful Work
Adam was working his job as a cleanup crewmember in Merced, Calif., when it happened.
“I’m working and I’m walking through town and I hear my name called and I look and it’s Mike Murphy… he called me by my first name,” Adam remembers. “I was shocked…the mayor called me by my first name.”
The previous day, Adam had spoken at a Town Hall meeting hosted by Mayor Murphy. Adam told the audience his story and his experience with Restore Jobs, a program of Restore Merced, and a current We Raise Foundation grantee. He described what the program had done for him and what it could do for others. He spoke from a place of worth and dignity. And he made an impression.
Restore Merced is a community development initiative focused on creating opportunities for low to moderate income residents to thrive socially, economically, and spiritually. Believing that meaningful work is essential to thriving, Restore Merced founder and executive director Matt St. Pierre developed the Restore Jobs program to provide work experience and build skills and character traits in residents otherwise deemed “unemployable.” In 2018, We Raise recognized his leadership and the program’s potential by awarding a two-year $15,000 Emerging Leader Grant.
Restore Jobs combines real-life, meaningful work experience with two required classes: “Jobs for Life,” which teaches the essential characteristics of being a reliable employee, and “Faith in Finances,” a personal budgeting and money management class.
“Restore Jobs hadn’t started a year ago when we got the grant – we were sort of prepping and planning for it,” St. Pierre says. After St. Pierre secured a trash cleanup contract with the City of Merced, they were off and running. Since then, 12 participants have moved through the program, Restore Merced moved into new office space—and St. Pierre’s second child was born. Through it all, St. Pierre has been grateful for We Raise’s support.
“I’ve had an incredible experience so far with We Raise,” St. Pierre says. “Being awarded the grant showed there’s other people who believe in where this is heading and can see the validity of this work.”
St. Pierre notes that while the grant’s value-added components like career coaching and webinars have been wonderful, the personal support means the most. “I’ve worked in the nonprofit world for many years but this is my first time building something myself,” he says. “Having Eric [We Raise Assistant Director of Programs] visit us to see what we’re doing in person…that meant a lot to me.”
Support and mentoring are key to Adam as well; he credits Restore Jobs for helping him beat his drug addiction and fulfill his dream of becoming a welder. “For Matt and Caleb to give me an opportunity, to work and grow as a person, and learn these positive character traits, I wanted to take the opportunity to the fullest I can and learn and grow to the best of my ability,” he says.
Whether a foundation recognizes an organization’s potential or the mayor knows your name, everyone deserves to have his or her value recognized. That recognition, that restoration of dignity for marginalized people, is what drives St. Pierre to do what he does.
“Dignity is something God gives to everybody, but sometimes it can be hidden under pain and trauma, or past mistakes can make it difficult for people to believe they have it,” he says. “I think work is one of the primary ways we can experience that we have something good to give to our community…we have skills, and knowledge and things that we’re good at that we can offer through our work.”
Adam appreciates what We Raise has done for him and others in the Restore Jobs program. “Without the donations we wouldn’t be able to do the things that we’re doing …. I would like to help the next recovering addict or the next suffering human being out there looking for work,” he says. “I’d like to give back to what Matt has given me.”
St. Pierre adds that We Raise support has transcended the monetary gift into something much bigger. “We’re really gaining some helpful tools for the future of our organization,” he says. “We’re glad to get to be part of the We Raise community.”