Foundation grant boosts Resource Center effort
The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation has awarded The Resource Center $5,000 to help expand TRC’s job-retention initiative to businesses in Dunkirk.
The money will be used to bolster The Resource Center’s SAFER (Supporting and Facilitating Employment Retention) program. SAFER provides supports to employers to improve worker retention, while supporting employees living in poverty to reduce their need for public assistance and become successful in their careers.
Resource Center officials believe people of low and moderate income face a number of issues. Situational stressors related to generational poverty can affect people’s ability to effectively maintain employment. SAFER seeks to resolve employment barriers by providing employees and businesses with enhanced supports, opportunities and awareness. One of SAFER’s objectives is to keep people employed so they can gain the experience and training necessary to move into higher-paying jobs, thereby improving their chances of achieving economic stability and moving out of poverty.
SAFER has been operating in Jamestown for several years. The grant-funded program has engaged 151 employees at 14 businesses. Assistance has been provided more than 500 times, and over 100 of those occurrences involved resolving financial barriers. Based on the program’s success, The Resource Center decided to offer SAFER to Dunkirk businesses.
“Our Board of Directors was pleased to support this project,” said Diane Hannum, Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation executive director. “TRC’s SAFER program has a record of success in an area that is crucial to the wellbeing of our community – workforce development.”
Terri Johnson, The Resource Center’s director of employment and community-based services, oversees the SAFER program.
“We are very excited to bring this program, that has had great results in Jamestown, to the Dunkirk area,” she said. “We are very grateful to the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation for seeing the value in the program and allowing us to expand it in the Dunkirk area.”
Johnson said the grant money from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation will be used to cover the cost of providing emergency assistance for things such as vehicle repairs, gasoline gift cards, transportation vouchers, child care, utility bills, or warm coats and boots for those who walk to and from work in winter.
“Anything that will keep them able to go to work,” she said of the potential uses of the emergency assistance money, which is intended to be temporary support while individuals develop financial stability with their SAFER success coach.
The Resource Center’s initial goals are to work with at least one business and support 12 employees living in ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Restrained, Employed) households. Success will be measured by whether people are still employed 90 days after entering the SAFER program, and TRC wants the program to achieve a 90 percent retention rate.
Resource Center officials said that, ultimately, the assistance provided through SAFER is designed to help reduce poverty by providing people in ALICE families with needed support and resources that will assist them in maintaining employment and increasing economic self-sufficiency.
SAFER was created using concepts from the Bridges Out of Poverty and Working Bridges models. The program also incorporates strategies used in The Resource Center’s staff assistance program for TRC’s own employees. Those initiatives recognize that poverty is not only a lack of money, but also a lack of resources. The SAFER program will develop partnerships with community organizations that can assist in reducing barriers to maintaining employment.
SAFER representatives will work with businesses to inform employees about the program’s availability. People who want to participate will undergo an assessment to determine their level of need. Each participant will have a customized employment plan.
The city of Dunkirk is also committing money toward starting the SAFER project in the city.
For more information about SAFER, call Johnson at 716-661-1433.