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We could all use a little inspiration. Here’s some from a Philadelphia mother of nine.

Chanta Scott, a Philadelphia mother of nine, was awarded the 2020 Inspiration Award from JEVS Human Services.

Already I’m wondering how Chanta Scott does it all, and we’ve only been talking for a few minutes.

She’s a mother of nine children, ages 4 to 22.

She works full time at Jefferson University Hospital as an operating room technician.

She’s launching an online clothing store this month.

And then she says something that makes me instantly regret the fistful of potato chips I’d shoved in my mouth right before our call.

She works out every day. Like, religiously. Enthusiastically. She has the Instagram posts to prove it.

(Damn salt and pepper chips!)

Inspiration can be hard to come by these endless Zoom-filled days.

So, here’s a little — or actually, a lot — from a Philadelphia mother who was recently honored with the 2020 Inspiration Award from JEVS Human Services.

Scott, 41, turned to JEVS’ Work Ready program last year after she broke her toe and was out of work for eight months.

She quickly realized some of the skills she was learning at the program — including customer service — could be applied to any job. She was a star pupil, especially when her instructors learned of all she’d overcome.

“She embodies positivity,” her instructor Valerie Jackson said. “Life happens but she keeps moving.”

Scott’s life was unstable as a child. She ended up in foster care for several years as her mother struggled with addiction, and Scott was left to care for her younger siblings. Her father wasn’t present, but trauma was a constant. She’s lost multiple friends to gun violence.

“I had to be an adult at an early age, but I knew I wanted to go to school and go to work and take care of myself.”

Chanta Scott, pictured with eight of her nine children, after receiving the 2020 Inspiration Award from JEVS Human Services.

She graduated from high school. She’s three courses short of a bachelor’s degree she intends on getting soon. But it was a struggle. She married and started a family at 19. She and her first husband divorced. Seven of her nine children are diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, or autism.

“Some days I do feel like breaking, but I know that I can’t.”

After giving birth to her seventh child, Scott turned to exercise as a way to manage her weight, and stress.

“I work out, I eat good, that’s what gives me the strength to stay calm. It’s my outlet.”

Her husband and the older kids help out. So does her mom, who she’s reconciled with and who lives right around the corner. Three of the older kids work together at FedEx and chip in to the household where they all live.

Above all, Scott tries to stay positive, but she concedes it can be hard. There are days that call for a good cry in the car, and she makes no apologies for that.

But mostly, Scott, who is a devout Muslim, said exercise and prayer get her through.

She highly recommends both, as well as gratitude — something she’s leaned into recently after she, her oldest son, and her husband recovered from COVID-19.

Scott’s job at the hospital also helps keep life in perspective. Scott preps operating rooms for incoming patients, who these days are increasingly gunshot victims. She transports them to the morgue when they don’t make it.

“The majority are very young, maybe 14 to 21,” she said. “It’s sad, and it’s hard, especially as a mother of seven sons, not to think, that could be my son. That is someone’s son.”

She knows better than many that it can be hard to break free of trauma before it breaks you. But she’s also inspiring proof that it’s possible.

“I wasn’t raised the best but I turned out how I wasn’t raised,” Scott said.

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J. Brett Studner on JEVS Human Services

We sat down with our friend, JEVS Foundation Board member and committed corporate partner, J. Brett Studner of Odell Studner, to ask him about his company’s corporate values, why he is committed to our cause and what lies ahead for our region as we recover from the pandemic and economic downturn.  “We’ll beat this togther,” he says of his Philadelphia-based firm and of JEVS Human Services.  Hear from Brett:


hireAbility Hosts Celebration in Honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month

JEVS hireAbility hosted the 75th Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) Celebration last week with a virtual meeting and awards presentation that reached 100 Zoom attendees.

The event was hosted by JEVS hireAbility Director of Operations Julia Blackwell. “This year is unlike any other, ” said Blackwell.  “Not only does this year mark 30 years since the signing of the Americans with Disability Act, 75 years for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 100 years since the inception of vocational rehabilitation, but this year we’re facing challenges like never before. JEVS is no stranger to this task, as we were founded almost 80 years ago, and since that time we’ve been helping people get to work and live independent lives.”

The proceedings kicked off with remarks by JEVS CEO Jay Spector, who thanks the New Jersey DVRS for its longstanding partnership with JEVS hireAbility, and who reaffirmed JEVS’ commitment to connecting people with disabilities to opportunities.

Attendees also heard from Karen Carroll, the director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in New Jersey, as well as from Robert Asaro-Angelo, the New Jersey Commissioner for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, who used the occasion to remind all employers “to practice inclusive hiring and increase access and opportunities to those with a disability.”

The event honored four clients of New Jersey Division of Vocation Services (DVRS) and JEVS hireAbility, as well as the employers who hired them.. “All the DVRS offices have many more success stories that we would love to share with you but we could not get to all of them,” said Angela Lucas, employment manager for JEVS hireAbility in New Jersey. “The four individuals we have chosen to recognize today and their employers are truly an inspiration.”

The highlights of the event were the video presentations on each award-winning client’s personal journey.  View their videos using these links, or watch the entire event below.

Nicholas Cialini
With help from a hireAbility supported employment specialist, Nick landed a position at AtlantiCare, where he has worked throughout the entire  pandemic as an essential worker. View Nick’s Success Story >

Stephen Jones
Born with a rare genetic disorder, Stephen’s strength and perseverance earned him the nickname “Mayor of Shore Medical” where he continues to be an inspiration despite COVID-19. View Stephen’s Success Story >

Rebekah Lovell
Rebekah is a recent high school grad who was determined to find employment. Her motivation was key to her success. View Rebekah’s Success Story >

Lynne Stephens
Lynne is wonderful example of how finding the right “fit” in employment and an employer who is an advocate and champion for people with disabilities makes all the difference. View Lynne’s Success Story >

The employers honored were Shore Medical Center and Xanitos (who hired Stephen Jones), AtlantiCare (Nicholas Cialini), Wawa (Lynne Stephens)and Texas Roadhouse (Rebekah Lovell).

Learn more about JEVS hireAbility >

75th Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) Celebration


How Can I Become More Tech Savvy? Ask Ms. Burnett!

Ms. Yolanda Burnett is the program coordinator for JEVS Career Solutions for 55+, where she provides mature Philadelphia workers with professional job readiness workshops, one-on-one job coaching and advocacy.

For more information on how Ms. Burnett and the 55+ program can help you, why not attend one of our upcoming free info sessions? They’re held every Friday at 11:00 via Zoom. See the JEVS Events page to RSVP for an upcoming session.

First, are employers even hiring?

Yes!  During this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, JEVS Career Solutions for 55+ continues to see a rise in job placements with their mature participants. Employers are hiring but they are also using video devices to meet with possible job candidates. That’s why it’s imperative for you to learn and/or become more proficient in using video conferencing technology.

Okay, so how can I adapt to online video conferencing like Zoom?

Well first, congratulations to you if this is your first time visiting JEVS Career Solutions for 55+ website!   Finding this website means that you’re capable of using computerized technology and that you are already adapting to this worldwide change of virtual connection.

Due to COVID-19 we are now forced to learn more and more on how to communicate with each other by using video devices such as Zoom video conferencing, FaceTime and Skype.  If finding a job is a priority for you, you must learn how to virtually connect. Read on for some tips on how to adapt, including a list of ways to increase your video knowledge and prepare for a video conference, meeting and/or virtual job interview.

  • Practice makes perfect:
    If you are a beginner, it’s ok to ask a family member and/or friend to practice with you.  Practicing may include creating conference call links, accepting conference call invitations and sending meeting invitations to others.  The most common video device that employers are now using is Zoom.  If you go to https://zoom.us/ you will find a video tutorial that will provide you with steps of learning Zoom.  Also, if you are familiar with YouTube check out this Zoom tutorial; How to use Zoom Step by Step for Beginners at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOUwumKCW7M
  • Be prepared and punctual:
    Keeping on a schedule is very important! Do your best to be on time.  During these times we’re all juggling multiple responsibilities. That said, we must be respectful of other’s time.  Because we all know that computers can often have a mind of their own; you must test your virtual devices at least one hour before your scheduled virtual meeting begins. If you know you are going to be late because of a technical issue, please let the host (employer) know by calling them via telephone. We’re all in the process of becoming adjusted with social distancing and video communication.  Therefore, most employers will understand your dilemma, they will appreciate your call and will more than likely reschedule your virtual meeting if need be.
  • Eliminate distractions:
    If you have other people in your home; make sure to let them know that you are about to attend a virtual meeting. Also let them know how important this video call is to you. While it’s not always possible to find a completely quiet place to have your meeting, try to find a place that will be least distracting to you and other attendees.
  • Be seen and heard:
    Position yourself in good lighting. One of the biggest mistakes people make is sitting in front of a bright window, which has the effect of fading you out.  The second biggest mistake is placing your lighting behind you, this will only create a dark silhouette figure of you.  Make sure that your wifi is strong.  An employer will need to see you and hear you.  There’s nothing more distracting than speaking to a frozen person and/or a person who’s wifi is constantly breaking up.
  • Represent yourself in a positive light.
    Wear clothes that adhere to the meeting.  If the video call is a job interview, please dress for the occasion.  Even though you are meeting virtually an employer can still notice if you’ve put some effort into your appearance. Sit or stand at a table rather than lounging on a couch or bed.  Find a neutral background and remember that less is more and everything in your camera frame is visible to those in your meeting.

I hope that you’ve found these tips to be enlightening and informative.  If you have any questions, need support with your resume, possible job leads and professional career coaching, please feel free to contact me:

Yolanda Burnett
Program Coordinator for JEVS Career Solutions for 55+
Email yolanda.burnett@jevs.org

You can also register to attend the next JEVS Career Solutions for 55+ information session and workshop by contacting Ms. Burnett at 267-449-0192.


Philly didn’t become America’s poorest big city by chance. Here’s how we fix it.

Edward Aviles (center) and classmates at Orleans Technical College, home of the city’s biggest job-training program and a path to good-paying jobs.  TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

by Inga Saffron

There are two stories that we can tell about Philadelphia in the first decades of the 21st century.

In one, Philadelphia is a city resurgent, rising from the ashes of deindustrialization to gain population, rejuvenate neighborhoods, build gleaming towers for corporate titans like Comcast and FMC, and claim its place as one of the nation’s health-care powerhouses. So many new houses and apartments are going up in this boomtown — even as the COVID crisis rages — that the city feels like a giant construction site. In 2019, the city celebrated a remarkable milestone: 10 straight years of job growth.

Yet, for many Philadelphians, this triumphant narrative will sound like science fiction. In parts of North Philadelphia, trees sprout from the windows of empty factories and trash laps at the steps of boarded-up Victorian mansions. Yes, the city has created 71,000 new jobs. But there are still 65,000 more city residents living in poverty today than there were in 2000, when the city’s economy began to pull itself out of its long slump. Once a city that dressed American men in Stanley Blacker sport coats, Joseph H. Cohen slacks, and Botany 500 suits, Philadelphia no longer has a single factory producing their office wear. And now, South Philadelphia’s sprawling refinery, where unionized workers often took home annual salaries of $100,000, is being converted to a logistics center, with neat rows of warehouses that will house commodities produced elsewhere.

As these clashing narratives suggest, the last 20 years have brought the best of times and the worst of times to Philadelphia. With a poverty rate of 23.3% in 2019 — slightly higher than it was in 2000 — Philadelphia is saddled with the ignoble distinction of being the poorest big city in America. The economic disruptions of the pandemic, which have hurt people of color in disproportionate numbers, are sure to leave even more people struggling to make ends meet.

How did poverty become a defining characteristic of a city that once proudly called itself the Workshop of the World? And what can Philadelphia do to change the situation, especially now that the coronavirus has killed whole job categories and by August swollen our unemployment rate to over 15%?

Shaleice Dudley (left), a food service worker at John H. Webster Elementary School, pasks grab-and-go meals for distribution to students and families in March after the Philadelphia School District switched to remote learning. MONICA HERNDON / FILE PHOTOGRAPH

To get at the answers to these difficult questions, The Inquirer is embarking on a yearlong series of stories that will examine the future of work. Planned before we were forced to convert our dining rooms and dens into satellite offices, the project will look at the ways that global forces are reconfiguring the relationship between work and income, and what Philadelphia must do to navigate the changing economy.

How Philadelphia became poor

The job-creation challenges that Philadelphia faces aren’t all that different from the ones confronting the rest of America, but the city’s history and deeply ingrained habits have made solutions more elusive.

Philadelphia’s high poverty rate didn’t happen by chance; it is the logical outcome of policies that turbocharged suburbanization, underfunded the school district, and allowed racist structures to go unchecked. For decades, people of color were shut out of the city’s best-paying jobs and routinely denied business loans and home mortgages. The effects of that racial discrimination can be seen in today’s poverty statistics: Two-thirds of Philadelphia’s poor are either Black or Latino.

Just as the nature of work is changing, so is poverty. A significant portion of the adults classified as poor go off to a job every day, but their wages aren’t sufficient to cover the cost of food and shelter. Philadelphia’s biggest failure over the last two decades, says Anne Nevins, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., is that “we haven’t grown the same proportion of middle-wage jobs as our peer cities.” You can find high-paying tech jobs at Comcast and low-paying janitorial jobs, but not enough in between.

Roughly 2,000 janitors gathered in Center City in 2015 to support equal opportunity and save jobs.  AARON WINDHORST / FILE PHOTOGRAPH

Some of the blame for this situation rests with Harrisburg. Although Philadelphia voters approved a referendum that would have raised the minimum wage within the city limits to $15 an hour — just enough to cover the necessities of life — the state legislature has blocked the measure’s implementation. That means Philadelphia is stuck for the foreseeable future with the minimum wage set by the federal government, $7.25 an hour.

Raising the minimum to $15 an hour would instantly transform thousands of low-wage jobs into middle-wage ones, says William Edward Spriggs, a Howard University economics professor. “It’s the single most powerful thing the city could do,” he argues. “Relative to the cost of living, the federal minimum wage was higher in 1968 than it is today.”

Because poverty, especially the persistent kind that exists in Philadelphia, is the result of many variables, it’s essential to understand its nuances. As bad as the poverty rate is, the city isn’t quite the outlier its harshest critics might suggest. While Detroit and Cleveland no longer rank among the top ten cities by population, they both have much higher poverty rates — about 35% in 2019. Even cities that we think of as being the modern dynamos, like Miami and Atlanta, have poverty rates close to Philadelphia’s.

The truth is that every American city struggles with high poverty. That too is a legacy of racist policies. The federal government built highways that funneled both middle-class residents and jobs out of cities and into suburbs. Yet, suburban towns have used zoning to limit the availability of low-cost housing, effectively containing the poor in urban areas, says Jeffrey Lin, vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Poverty remains concentrated in cities because they are places where the poor can find crucial services, access transit, and call on family support networks.

Last year we saw how these exclusionary practices are perpetuated when Lower Merion updated its zoning code. While the township’s impressive new rule book incorporated the latest urban planning ideas, including provisions to encourage walkable neighborhoods, promote transit, and protect green space, the words affordable housing were never mentioned.

That omission is hardly unique to Lower Merion. Across the wider Philadelphia metro area, the poverty rate was just 12.6% in 2018, on par with the national average,because so few towns offer affordable housing.

American cities are typically poorer than their suburbs. But Philadelphia’s situation is more extreme, according to Carolyn Adams, a Temple University professor-emerita who has written extensively about deindustrialization and poverty in Philadelphia. “We have a more fragmented region than most U.S. cities, with 350 municipalities, spread between two states, all with local zoning boards making their own calculations in their own interests,” she says.

A rough transition to the new economy

At the same time, Philadelphia’s economy has underperformed compared with its two historic peer cities, New York and Boston. Like Philadelphia, both are former industrial centers that struggled in the ’60s and ’70s after big manufacturers left town, first for the nonunionized Southern states, then for low-cost factories in Asia. But New York and Boston have succeeded in reinventing themselves as centers of finance and technology, sectors where Philadelphia’s performance has been weak. Both cities have returned to the same job levels they had in 1970. Philadelphia is still 200,000 jobs short.

There is no lack of theories for why Philadelphia has lagged. But many experts, including Adams, believe the school district bears much of the blame for failing to prepare students for the changing economy.

Because of inequities in the state’s education funding, Philadelphia receives less school aid than it needs and spends less on each student than suburban districts do. The lack of state funding limits its ability to bring class sizes down to ideal levels, explains Donna Cooper, who runs the education advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The district has failed to update its career programs — what used to be called vocational education — for an economy where computer skills are essential. “We still have former shop teachers running career tech education,” she says. “We never really completed the transformation from manufacturing to a knowledge economy.”

Travis Coffey experienced this firsthand while growing up in North Philadelphia. Although he loved to help his friends install car stereos when he was attending William Penn High School, no one ever suggested he study to become an electrician. He dropped out after 11th grade and spent years working as a custodian. It wasn’t until he was 46 that he found his passion, and a career, by enrolling in an electricians course at Orleans Technical College, the city’s biggest job-training program. Now employed as an apprentice with a Bucks County firm that pays $15 an hour, plus benefits, Coffey says: “I finally feel like I have a future.”

Lou Abruzzese, HVAC Instructor, teaches students at Orleans Technical College. Students who graduate from the course can easily obtain middle-wage jobs that lift them out of poverty.   TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Even though the district’s test scores have improved significantly in recent years, there are many others like Coffey who still fail to graduate — 30%. The city’s experience during the pandemic reveals the true impact of that statistic: Two-thirds of the people who lost their jobs in the first months of the crisis did not have a high school diploma.

Black workers have been shut out

Back when Philadelphia was a manufacturing center and people made things with their hands, a good education didn’t matter as much. But as the economy has changed, it has become harder for people without a high school degree to earn family-sustaining wages. One of the few fields left is construction.

But to this day Philadelphia’s construction unions make it difficult for people of color to join their ranks. In the late ’60s, just 12.5% of the city’s construction workers were Black, according to Guian A. McKee’s history of deindustrialization in Philadelphia, The Problem of Jobs. Discrimination was so rampant that the federal government stepped in to force the unions to open up their membership. The federal desegregation effort, known as the Philadelphia Plan, became the model for affirmative action. But the effort failed miserably in the city where it began, and was eventually abandoned.

At 46, Travis Coffey enrolled in Orleans Technical College to become an electrician.  JOSE F. MORENO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A few unions, like the roofers, cement masons, and laborers, have become more welcoming, Wigglesworth says, but people of color still have not been able to benefit from the city’s building boom to the same degree as whites. “Given the massive amounts of development, the union membership really needs to open up,” says Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who represents some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.

But the biggest problem over the years has been the disconnect between the skills that job-training programs teach and the skills that employers need.

By the 1990s, Philadelphia had acknowledged that manufacturing was not coming back. It was becoming clear that big universities and medical institutions — “eds and meds” — would become the dominant industries — the new knowledge economy. Like many other cities, Philadelphia also sought to replace those lost manufacturing jobs by following a second track: It invested heavily in building up conventions, tourism, and hospitality — the service economy.

In 2008, the last time the city was able to gather demographic information about union membership, just 10% of the members were Black. “The story told today could have been told 50 years ago,” says Tony Wigglesworth, who negotiates labor contracts for large Philadelphia building projects. Coffey says he would love to join the electricians union, but “it’s hard to get in.”

The pandemic has shuttered stores and restaurants around Philadelphia, and the city’s service sector workers have suffered.  HEATHER KHALIFA / FILE PHOTOGRAPH

Today, those two sectors provide the majority of the jobs that exist in Philadelphia. They are codependents that are necessary for each to function successfully. Philadelphia still makes things the world craves, but the products are more intangible: health care and higher ed, media content and technology, restaurant meals and business meetings. The real problem is that too many Philadelphians lack the skills to participate in the knowledge economy. And the service economy doesn’t pay enough.


Better skills for better jobs

The solution, Philadelphia policymakers agree, is to provide the education and targeted job training necessary to move the lowest-paid workers into middle-wage jobs. Upskilling, it’s called. And the good news is that, after decades of false starts and magical thinking, Philadelphia is beginning to coalesce around an upskilling strategy.

Take home health aides, one of the fastest-growing jobs in Philadelphia. The aides provide a vital service in caring for the sick and elderly, yet make an average of $23,000 a year, or about $11 an hour. But with a little bit of training, a home health aide can become a certified medical assistant or a phlebotomist — and increase one’s salary by $10,000. Earning an associate’s degree in a health-care specialty would boost earnings even more and open up a variety of career opportunities. The city believes it could make a dent in its poverty rate by getting low-wage workers — like teacher’s aides — to upskill.

Community College of Philadelphia is the perfect place to acquire that training. But until recently, the college showed little interest in career tech programs. The college was focused instead on getting students to complete associate degrees so they could apply to traditional four-year colleges. “There was a disdain for people who chose career tech over white-collar jobs,” one college official confided in an off-the-record interview. That approach was all wrong for Philadelphia students, who could barely afford CCP’s pricey tuition, and it showed in the graduation rate, a dismal 17.5%.

After Donald Generals took over as president in 2014, the two-year college began to reorganize its curriculum to offer more certificate programs in career tech fields, especially quick turnaround programs that offer immediate employment.

For instance, at the request of PGW and Peco, CCP started a curriculum to train gas pipeline mechanics. The program costs students $5,000 but requires just 12 weeks of training. At the end, graduates are immediately hired at jobs that start at $18 an hour. CCP has also established a feeder program to supply Nissan and Toyota with elite auto mechanics, another good-paying job. The college is about to begin construction on a building at 48th and Market devoted exclusively to career tech training. Generals emphasizes that today’s auto mechanics are really a variant of IT workers: “Modern cars are computers on wheels.”

In the past, many city job-training programs did little more than teach people interviewing skills. And they certainly weren’t results-oriented. The Commerce Department and Philadelphia Works, the agency that oversees workforce development, are trying to ensure that the training programs are direct pipelines to existing jobs.

Flipping the job-training script

That approach has been perfected by the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, a job-training program started by the University City District. “Workforce development used to be ‘train and pray,’ pray people find jobs,” said UCD’s Matt Bergheiser. “We flipped the script. We don’t recruit a training class unless there’s a real employer committed to hiring 15 people at once.”

The city’s biggest job trainer, JEVS Human Services, which runs Orleans Technical College, also offers customized training in a variety of in-demand fields, including many construction trades. Since many people are hampered without a high school diploma or driver’s license, they often start with those basics. They’ve found there is a huge demand for IT specialists, health-career workers, and lab technicians.

What keeps more poor Philadelphians from taking advantage of these programs? Time and money. If you’re working full-time to feed a family, you might not be able to immerse yourself in a training program. The certificate and career tech programs at CCP cost as much as $8,000 a year, a big chunk of a poor family’s income.

If those students were going through a regular degree program, they could qualify for a federal Pell grant to underwrite their tuition. The irony is, Pell grants can’t be used for career tech or certificate programs, only academic degree programs.

There is actually bipartisan support in Congress to extend Pell grants to certificate programs, but like so much else, the measure has been stuck in the political logjam. This year, the Kenney administration stepped in to remedy the problem by creating a $4 million scholarship program. Now that initiative has been put on hold because of the COVID-induced revenue shortfall. At the exact moment when Philadelphians are desperate to find jobs, we are shortchanging training programs.

There’s a more efficient way to solve the problem, argues Donna Cooper, of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The school district should offer more opportunities to get associate degrees in high school in career tech fields like engineering, computer-assisted design, and IT. That would require developing new curricula, hiring faculty, and maybe even setting up a specialized high school. It would be expensive but would pay off in the long term. “We need this educational infrastructure as much as we need infrastructure for our rail system,” she argues.

Some take solace in Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ plan to create a logistics center at the South Philadelphia refinery. Now that the school district has approved a significant tax break for the project, the company is promising to create jobs for 10,000 people in its new warehouses.

The pay will be significantly less than the six-figure salaries earned by refinery workers. Those warehouse workers will most likely start around $15 an hour. But for Philadelphians at the bottom, those jobs represent a first step.

The city’s economic outlook remains deeply uncertain. But it’s in Philadelphia’s interest to make sure every resident has the credentials and skills to participate in the jobs of the future.

Read this story on Inquirer.com >

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Shore Medical Center Employee Receives Inspiration Award from Philadelphia-Based Human Services Organization

Stephen Jones, right, a Shore Medical Center employee and big Eagles fan, was honored Oct. 7 with JEVS Human Services’ Inspiration Award. Jones is pictured with Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott at Shore’s health fair at the 2018 Somers Point Bayfest.

by Beth Ann Spiegel

SOMERS POINT — Stephen Jones has been a friendly, smiling face at Shore Medical Center for several years, first working in the linen department as part of Atlantic County Special Services School District’s (ACSSSD) School-to-Work Program, and now as a full-time housekeeping employee where he is flourishing. On Oct. 7, Stephen was honored by JEVS Human Services based in Philadelphia with their Inspiration Award for his efforts to overcome adversity to find fulfilling employment. Stephen accepted his award during a virtual version of JEVS’ 22nd annual fundraising event, Strictly Business. You can view Stephen’s acceptance at the 24:00 mark of the video at this link: https://www.jevshumanservices.org/support-jevs/strictly-business-2020/

After graduation from ACSSSD, Stephen connected with JEVS Human Services’ hireAbility program, which assists individuals living with a disability or chronic disease by preparing them for competitive employment and community integration. Stephen wanted to continue working at Shore, so hireAbility Career Navigator Kim Callahan worked with his Shore manager to see if there was a position that matched his strengths. They negotiated a two-day-week to start, and Stephen was back working at Shore until the pandemic hit. He opted to stay home until he felt comfortable, but when a five-day-a-week job opportunity at Shore arose in June, Stephen jumped at the chance. While he found wearing a mask challenging at first, his mother and career navigator worked to find a mask that Stephen could comfortably wear.

Baylen Botts is the director of environmental services, patient transportation and linen distribution, and is Stephen’s supervisor. He says Stephen has been a joy to work with.

“Stephen has an infectious enthusiasm that brightens everyone’s day. He takes his work seriously and he often points out safety concerns around the building as they occur. He continually expresses how grateful he is to work here with us and he always speaks to everyone he comes in contact with. I am very proud of him and I am glad to see him receive recognition for the things that he has accomplished so far.”

Alan Beatty, vice president of Human Resources at Shore, says Stephen has been a ray of sunshine since the very beginning of his time with Shore. “Stephen is always upbeat and positive. You cannot do anything but smile when you are around him. I actually call him ‘Smiley’ and look forward to seeing him every day he works.”

Lawrence Phillips, director of security, sees Stephen as a breath of fresh air. “Even on the frantic, out-of-control days that we all have occasionally, Stephen reminds me of why I enjoy working at Shore! Plus, I get updates and scheduling on all Phillies and Eagles games. Stephen is great to work with and I am really happy that he has officially joined our workforce.”

Chief Information Officer Fred Banner is thrilled Stephen was able to continue his work at Shore beyond his school experience.

“At six-feet tall, Stephen is quite a presence, but it’s the size of his heart that makes the biggest impact. My life and our medical center are richer as a result of Stephen. His contagious “can do” attitude, his quick wit and sense of humor coupled with his sincere desire to serve and contribute to our mission serve as a role model to all who know and work with him. We are indeed fortunate call Stephen our friend and fellow team member.”

For more information about JEVS hireAbility, visit jevshireability.org

Read this story at PressofAtlanticCity.com >

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Jobless to Joyful: A Philly Man’s Unemployment Success Story

A few weeks ago, JEVS CEO Jay Spector saw a man by the name of Eddie Tomlin interviewed on NBC10 News.  Eddie had lost his job due to COVID and was having a hard time finding a new one.  As Jay often does when he sees people in distress, he wanted to help. So the JEVS team tracked down the reporter, Mitch Blatcher, to see if we could reach out to Eddie and offer job search help.

We connected with Mitch, who put us in touch with Eddie.  Eddie knew about JEVS and was really happy to get the call. One of our job developers, Souleyman Fall, provided Eddie with resume help, coached him on some job search basics and connected him with a few hiring employers.  Thanks to our efforts, Eddie found a new job!

“I could have cried. It took me up. I felt like I could touch the sky,” Eddie said upon landing his job.

Mitch and NBC10 did a follow up story on Eddie — watch the clip below.

JEVS is getting Philly back to work!


JEVS Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

JEVS is a proud participant of the Disability Pride parade and celebration held each year in Philadelphia.

The 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides JEVS Human Services with the opportunity to reflect on our responsibility to protect and advance the rights of people with disabilities, and to reiterate our commitment to advocating for the work that still needs to be done.

Signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA was a landmark civil rights law that affirmed the inherent dignity of every person, regardless of disability. The ADA grants civil rights protections to people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and provisions like transportation. It also prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

JEVS has a long history of working to expand opportunities for people with disabilities and to that end provides an array of programs that demonstrate this commitment, including Community Supports & Adult Residential programs, options for Long-Term Supports & In-Home Care, and Employment Programs for People with Disabilities.

Beyond programming, we are proud of our advocacy efforts in this area. We carefully monitor state and federal legislation and work to shape public policy on behalf of people with disabilities.

This year marks not only the 30th anniversary of the ADA, but also the 75th observance of NDEAM, National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Each October, NDEAM celebrates America’s workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices. This month and every month, JEVS is committed to raising awareness about disability employment issues and honoring the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities.

While we take time to celebrate these anniversaries and the progress made, we know there is still much work to do. For example, a federal law still exists that allows employers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.  In Pennsylvania, 5,712 people are currently receiving less than minimum wage, oftentimes much less, according to the Employment First Oversight Commission.

“The upcoming election is important for people with disabilities, particularly for employment issues,” said Julia Blackwell, Director of Operations for JEVS hireAbility, an affiliate agency of JEVS Human Services that offers customized employment programs to individuals living with a disability. “It’s an opportunity to pass Senator Casey’s Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which would end the discriminatory law that allows employers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.”

Though much progress has been made since the advent of the ADA and NDEAM, JEVS remains committed to advocating for the work that still needs to be done, and to protecting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities.

“We will be able to celebrate the real victory when everyone has access to a career that leads to a meaningful life, full inclusion, and financial empowerment,” said Blackwell.


Mt. Airy Man Overcoming Abuse Suffered in Detention

Lillian Penn, program assistant manager at JEVS Human Services E3 Power Center City, started a walking club. Craig Stone, of Mt. Airy (seen here with Penn), who was badly beaten at Glen Mills Schools, walks with her around the Philadelphia Art Museum area twice a week.

by Sue Ann Rybak

Mt. Airy resident Craig Stone, now 24, was just 14 years old when he was sent to Glen Mills Schools (GMS), a juvenile detention center in Delaware County, for nine months. GMS, which was originally called the Philadelphia House of Refuge, was lauded for its peer pressure model, which encouraged students to report their peers for any infraction of the rules.

However, GMS was a far cry from a house of refuge. The state closed the school in the Spring, 2019, following allegations of decades of child abuse. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in April 2019, GMS counselors “were cited for shoving a child’s head into a cabinet, striking others in the face in front of their peers, breaking open a child’s head, sending a student’s elbow through a glass window, choking a student, pushing a boy through a chair and punching a child in the ribs, among other incidents.”

The article went on to say that one boy was removed from the school “after counselors stepped on the boy’s face and broke his jaw so severely that it had to be wired shut.” Stone said staff at the school “tried to break my spirit” by abusing him physically, emotionally and mentally. He recalled counselors punching him and choking him so he couldn’t breathe.

Stone said he eventually started fighting back, which only resulted in more staff “beating me down.” He recalled one incident where counselors held him down with their hands and knees so he couldn’t move or turn his face. Then, Stone said they stomped on him and beat him beyond recognition.

“I was screaming to get help from other kids,” Stone said. “I was terrified they were going to take me someplace else.” Eventually, he was knocked unconscious. Afterwards, staff confined him to his room for three days, allegedly to give his bruises and other injuries time to heal before they took him to receive medical treatment.

He said staff members tried to bribe him by offering him special status or privileges so he would keep his mouth shut. “My parents didn’t know what was happening,” he said.

His mother knew something was wrong when she didn’t hear from him for a while, so she began calling GMS. Eventually, the Department of Human Services (DHS) got involved, and GMS gave him “a failure to adjust.” Shortly after that, he was taken to Montgomery Detention Center for roughly six months. Later, he was transferred to a rural community even farther away from Philadelphia.

The experience at GMS left Stone with post-traumatic stress disorder and full of anger and distrust. However, thanks to people like Lillian Penn, 34, program assistant manager at JEVS Human Services E3 Power Center City (formerly Jewish Employment and Vocational Service), he is optimistic about his future. E3 Center City provides education, employment and life skills training to out-of-school youth for success in the global economy.

The program was offered on-site until the pandemic occurred earlier this year, and then the program went online. Through trauma-informed lessons, Penn is changing lives by addressing the complex needs of the whole person.

Stone said he has trouble feeling safe because of the trauma he was subjected to daily at GMS. He purchased a gun for his safety. That decision eventually led to another arrest and 3.5 years of house arrest. “I made a poor decision because of my past,” he said.

Despite being under house arrest, Penn arranged for Stone to participate in the E3 program. Currently, he is working on completing his high school diploma through Penn Foster, an online education program. “I’m just blessed for real to come across a person like Lillian,” he said. “I have a lot of distrust in people. I don’t open up much.”

“He went through a lot of therapy,” said Penn. “He had to be comfortable being angry. We associate anger with a negative connotation a lot of times. After talking to him and hearing his story, I explained to him that he had a reason to be angry. It’s OK to be angry, but he had to learn how to take that anger and shift it into something healthy.”

“I do have a lot of distrust towards people,” Stone said. “I feel like she (Penn) is the reason I am seeking counseling because I don’t talk about these things with people. I try to forget about my past. At the same time, it makes me angry, and I want to stop feeling angry. My anger can get me in trouble and hurt people I don’t want to hurt.”

Penn even contacted Stone’s parole officer about allowing him to participate in a walking club. Recently, Stone and Penn walked four miles. Stone recalled walking down the parkway with her and seeing a lot of homeless people. “It was very humbling to me,” he said. “I saw a lot of people out there who are in need.”

Stone will be off house arrest next summer but is hoping to earn his diploma in just three months. “I want my life to change for the better,” he said. “I want to be able to get a job and get my own place. I want my life to move in a positive direction.”

For more information about E3, visit jevshumanservices.org/program/e3-power-center-city

View this story at ChestnutHillLocal.com>

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Congrats to these JEVS Employees on Their Milestone Anniversaries!

Each year, JEVS Human Services honors employees for milestone anniversaries at our annual Employee Recognition Event.  This year we are unable to hold this event in person, but we would still like to recognize and celebrate the amazing employees who have spent an incredible 20, 25, 30 and 35 years with us!

The employee tributes are broken down alphabetically by last name on a series of web pages which you can view using the links below.

JEVS 2020 Employee Recognition
A – C  |  D – H  | J – Ra  |  Ro – Si  |  Sm – Z

JEVS 2020 Employee Recognition: Sm – Z

Belinda Smith, Community Living and Home Supports – 20 Years

Congratulate Belinda

Larry Talbert, Community Living and Home Supports – 30 Years

Congratulate Larry

Rita Starling Taylor, Work Ready – 35 Years

Rita Starling Taylor

Congratulate Rita

Linda Thompson, Community Living and Home Supports – 30 Years

Congratulate Linda

Carla Watson, Community Living and Home Supports – 20 Years

Supervisor Lisa LaRoda on Carla Watson:

“I would like to acknowledge Mrs. Watson for her sincere caring attribute she exudes towards staff and the residents. Throughout Mrs. Watson duration at Borbeck B staff and the residents gained a friend. Mrs. Watson charitable spirit is often sought after by the residents when she is off for the weekend or on vacation. Carla’s work ethics are pure and has made a huge impact on how the residents communicate with each other, staff and family. Every morning Carla before she leaves belts out simultaneously with the ladies “Borbeck ladies rock” and gives them all a high five!  Carla is well appreciated by us all!!! Happy 20-year anniversary!”

Congratulate Carla

Belinda Wilson, Community Living and Home Supports – 25 Years

Congratulate Belinda

JEVS 2020 Employee Recognition
A – C  |  D – H  | J – Ra  |  Ro – Si  |  Sm – Z

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