Better Jobs: Matchmaker for employment

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Gavin and Nate stand inside CARP industrial building
Gavin and Nate |

 

Steven Russell had been to three other job fairs. He’d placed help-wanted ads in print and online. Still, he wasn’t finding the right workers for his light manufacturing plant in Fort Myers. He was looking for someone with commitment, with curiosity, and a drive to learn the job and do it well.

Russell’s company, Creative Architectural Resin Products Inc., or CARP, which he co-owns with Marilyn Santiago, makes resin-based faux architectural elements that look like natural materials, like stone or wood. Quality matters at CARP. The company works with some of the most prestigious builders in Southwest Florida and beyond. The company earned the 2019 Startup of the Year award by the Horizon Council, Horizon Foundation and the Lee Economic Development Office.

Finding quality employees, however, proved to be a difficult endeavor in 2021, like it was for many employers.

Then the couple said yes to a Better Jobs second-chance job fair.

“I believe in second chances,” Russell says. “I myself have been given plenty in life, and I just wanted to give them a chance.”

The decision was last-minute. Russell and Santiago had only learned about the job fair the day before. It was around the holidays. They had no reason to think they’d find what they were looking for.

But this was no ordinary job fair.

 

Better Jobs job fairs tap the power of the church and the local community and combine that with a winning formula to create an environment where job seekers and hiring managers excel. It’s like Better Together created a match-making event for employment instead of romance.

When a job seeker walks through the door, they’re greeted warmly and offered to connect to a job coach, who can show them around, go over their resume, answer questions, help them prep and connect them to the employers who best fit their skills and needs.

Some of our job fairs offer free haircuts and clothing. They often have other community resources available. And job seekers are welcome to come as they are. No suits required. Don’t have someone to watch your children? Bring them.

The employers at our job fairs come with open minds. They know the value of second-chance hires, people who have a barrier to employment like incarceration, lack of transportation or gaps in their resume. They understand a past mistake does not negate a person’s worth in the workplace today.

CARP discovered this first hand.

At a job fair in late 2021, Russell met Gavin and Nate.

“Most of the candidates that came to our table were good choices and seemed to have experience, or at least the ambition, and wanted to really try,” Russell said. He was particularly impressed with Gavin and Nate. “They really wanted to come to the factory and see what it was about, which I like that in people. They showed ambition right off, right from the beginning.”

He offered them both jobs, and they started the next day.

Both men had barriers to employment. Nate had just completed three years of incarceration. Gavin had been unemployed for seven months and struggled with mental health issues, all triggered by a bout of COVID-19.

Their job fair connection, however, changed the trajectory of their paths.

“Having a job with me, man, it means a lot, because I got three children, three beautiful children. I got bills I got to pay. And without a job, it’s hard to live out there, man. It’s hard to live without steady work,” Nate told us about three weeks into his new position. In that short amount of time, he and Gavin became valued employees.

“I get up every morning excited to come to work, because I know that this company is growing and I’m a part of that growth. It humbles me, man; it humbles me a lot,” Nate said. “It gives me dignity.”

Gavin credited the job with improving his mental health.

“If I hadn’t found the Better Together job fair, it’s hard to imagine where I’d be right now. I’m certainly in a much better place mentally. and it’s just helped me out tremendously,” Gavin said.

The job even helped improve his marriage, he added. “I have something I can be proud of. At the end of the day, I can come home and I’ve pulled my weight.”

The hires increased production by 30%, Russell said, and he’s been impressed by their work ethic. “From the interview right up till today, they have not let me down.”

How to get involved

Posted March 18, 2022 | Pamela Hayford

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Cammara OvertonBetter Together Team

Cammara Overton
Collier County Family Care Coordniator

Cammara worked in the international nonprofit sector and served as a missionary overseas for 10 years before joining Better Together as the Collier County Family Care Coordinator. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has a heart for building relationships and serving women, children and their families and sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ with everyone she meets. Cammara is passionate about coming alongside those seeking life change and helping them achieve all that they desire to do for themselves and their families. Cammara is very excited to be a part of the Better Together family by providing recourses and extending love and compassion to families in crisis.

Cammara and her husband, Dan, enjoy spending time playing volleyball and hanging out with friends and their Italian pup, Harley. They both have a passion for serving the Lord and being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

Jennifer MoffittBetter Together Team

Jennifer Moffitt
Tampa Bay Region Home Study Specialist

Originally from Massachusetts, Jenn moved to Florida in 1993 to be closer to her parents, who had left the snow behind the year before. In 1996, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Jenn started her career working in private adoptions as a birth parent worker. After two years she was drawn to child welfare. For the next 19 years, she worked as a child protection investigator for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. In 2019 she began working for the Office of the State Attorney, 6th Judicial Circuit, as a child abuse specialist. She assisted prosecutors with interviewing child victims of abuse and neglect and served as a liaison with the Department of Children and Families and their local community providers.

Jenn and her husband, Shawn, were married on Christmas Day in 1999, and they have two boys, ages 12 and 20. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, taking day trips, visiting the beach, and vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina.

Katie MalloyBetter Together Team

Katie Malloy
Northeast Region Home Study Specialist

Katie was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and attended the University of Mississippi, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Katie has been working with children and families in the foster care system in Duval County since 2015. Her passion is advocating for children in care and helping build strong and healthy families. During Katie’s childhood, her church community was a great support system for her and her family. She’s a firm believer that the more people who love a child, the better.

Ruth DavidsonBetter Together Team

Ruth Davidson
Southwest Florida Church Engagement Director

Ruth has a passion for serving others. She believes strongly in giving back to the community and paying it forward. She loves to share her personal story of how, with God’s help, she was able to overcome past hurdles. Growing up in rural Kentucky in a large family that faced many struggles, she knows firsthand how God’s love can heal and restore broken families. She has the gift of hospitality and enjoys communicating with others with the hope that she is never meeting strangers, only making friends.

Ruth comes to Better Together with over eight years of ministry experience. After moving to Fort Myers from Fort Lauderdale in 2016, she served as an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit faith-based recovery program for more than five years. She was also an administrative assistant to her directors, scheduling events and successfully developing and establishing relationships with several businesses and churches in Southwest Florida. She has a relaxed way of making others feel comfortable, possessing a servant’s heart and loves outreach and missions.

Ruth currently resides in Naples and enjoys traveling, dining out, cooking, entertaining and serving in her community. She has two grown children, Martin and Annie, and one grandson, Drew, who loves to visit with his Nana.

Amanda ColafrancescoBetter Together Team

Amanda Colafrancesco
Sarasota/Manatee Home Study Specialist

Amanda was born and raised in Rhode Island and moved to Florida in 2016. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in administration of justice from Salve Regina University. Upon graduation, she began a career in child welfare, specifically toward a goal of preventing children from entering the foster care system. Amanda brings diverse experiences in serving children and families in their home environments to her work with Better Together as a home study specialist. She is also a certified child welfare protective investigator through the Florida Certification Board and has over six years of child welfare experience. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys visiting with family and friends.

Better Together Team

Yohana Resto
Southwest Florida Executive Director

Yohana brings to Better Together 15 years of experience working in child welfare. She has served in various roles, including case manager, clinical services specialist, relative search specialist, foster family recruiter, and most recently a role conducting comprehensive assessments for children in foster care or relative care. Yohana has a heart and passion for serving children and families, and she brings to the organization a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. A graduate of Southeastern University and Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s in psychology and Master of Science in counseling, Yohana has a caring and compassionate heart to support families in need.

Yohana loves spending time with her husband, Miguel, and their four children—Isabela, Natalia, Jaxon and Jayden. You can frequently find them at a soccer game, as their girls enjoy playing competitive travel soccer. Yohana credits her relationship with God and personal salvation as the motivating force behind her desire to continue to serve her community.

Dawson JordonBetter Together Team

Dawson Jordan
Creative Director

Dawson is an exciting addition to the Better Together Team. Since graduating college in 2015 from Florida Gulf Coast University with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management he has managed to create a successful career for himself as a self-employed freelance videographer/photographer. He has recently relocated back to his hometown in SWFL and is excited to join the team as the Creative Director to help us tell the Better Together story. Dawson is passionate about telling stories through a creative lens, especially when it comes to seeing families stay together and for individuals to thrive and become the best version of themselves. When Dawson is not in the office he likes to hang out with his friends, workout, and watch sports.