Impacting Key Issues
Empowering and enabling economic
Photo: Marian Lockhart
Employees Community Fund brings hope to homeless women in Boeing communities
Tough economic times are especially difficult for women who are homeless, recovering from abusive relationships, or young and parenting on their own. Lacking current job skills, they have difficulty competing with recently laid-off workers in the job market; at the same time, many federal, state and local funds for social welfare programs that could help them have been cut in the face of budget shortfalls.
Stepping in to fill the gap are organizations like the Employees Community Fund (ECF) of Boeing, whose local sites provide grants that enable nonprofit groups to continue to give hope to society's most vulnerable members. Through the ECF, Boeing employees donated more than $28.7 million last year that was contributed to more than 4,000 nonprofit groups and organizations in communities where they live and work. Seeing the importance of this issue, support for programs that enable women to gain the confidence and skills necessary to become self-sufficient has emerged as a common theme across many Boeing ECF organizations.
Southern California: Workshops on Wheels
One such group, Women Helping Women of Orange County, Calif., received a grant from ECF of Southern California to set up an innovative job skills program called Workshops on Wheels.
Women Helping Women empowers low-income individuals to attain economic independence through successful employment and has offered job workshops at its Santa Ana facility for several years, but became aware that many of their clients could not attend workshops because of transportation or other logistical issues. The Workshops on Wheels program brings training in job-seeking, resume-writing, dressing for success, and interviewing skills to the women, whether they are in shelters, churches, schools, or other facilities.
"We give grants through our Crystal Vision Awards Program to strong community organizations to provide seed funds for new and extension programs that they may have wanted to do for a while but have been unable to fund, like the Workshops on Wheels program."
—Carrie Bollwinkle, who leads ECF of Southern California
Women Helping Women Executive Director Brateil Aghasi said, "This grant has really fulfilled a two-year dream. We've been able to invest in technology, such as projectors and laptop computers, develop curriculum, and engage community volunteers with HR backgrounds to conduct the workshops. We will serve an additional 500 people this year by removing barriers like lack of transportation."
Mari Nguyen, who works in finance for Engineering, Operations & Technology, has volunteered with Women Helping Women, sorting and selling clothing that is donated to the charity. Nguyen is impressed with the group. "It's amazing what they can get done with so little staff," she said. "They work with the community to find volunteers, getting people from the local bank to teach a class on personal finance, for example. Some of their clients were never taught these basic skills that we take for granted."
Seattle: Jubilee Women's Center
In Seattle, the Jubilee Women's Center has been providing shelter, job training and other services to help homeless women on the road to stability for more than 25 years.
Jubilee's facility includes a learning and technology center to help clients, some of whom have never used computers, gain much-needed experience and instruction in computing skills. A grant from the ECF of Puget Sound enabled Jubilee to purchase new computers for the center to ensure that clients have access to the latest technology.
"The community benefits when employees offer a helping hand. With this grant, Boeing employees are helping these women to gain the skills needed as they progress on the road to becoming productive members of society. Building a better community is what the Employees Community Fund is all about."
—Caren Skube, ECF of Puget Sound leader
Katy Childers, director of development at Jubilee, believes that the grant from ECF will make a big difference. "We'd have older computers without it, and we wouldn't be able to teach the computer skills needed today or run the Microsoft certification tests," she said.
The center has just eight full-time staff members and relies on volunteers—some of whom are former clients— to assist its 34 residents. Maggie Graham, a senior manager in Commercial Aviation Services, has volunteered at Jubilee for several years and thought so highly of the group's work that she is now on the nonprofit's board of directors.
"The guiding principal is that all women are to be treated with respect and dignity," she said. "They really do value the individuals, their talents, unique qualities and gifts and then provide needed support services in life skills and business training that help residents make positive and permanent changes from the inside out."
East St. Louis: Transitional Living Center
Call for Help, Inc. is an East St. Louis nonprofit that helps individuals overcome homelessness and other personal crises by providing advocacy, counseling, shelter and financial assistance. The organization's Transitional Living Center offers a range of services to homeless young women who are parenting young children to help them live independently.
"It's a unique facility in our area," said Angela Most, leader of the ECF of St. Louis, which made a grant to the program. "There are lots of services for homeless people, but most focus on families. This program focuses specifically on single moms, many of them teenagers."
"We have people from the community make presentations on parenting, nutrition, shopping, cooking, budgeting, housekeeping—anything to help these young ladies have the skills to maintain independent living for themselves and their children. That breaks the cycle of poverty and homelessness for these families."
—Cheryl Compton, executive director for Call for Help
"We were impressed that they collaborate widely with other organizations in the area, so it's not just one single program doing good work. We were also impressed that they provide after-care services, following up six months after the women leave the program to make sure they're still doing well in their new jobs and homes."
The center used the grant to buy bus passes that enable residents, who stay at the facility for two years, to complete their education and seek employment. The grant also allowed them to install locks on the doors of client rooms in the facility to enhance privacy—a seemingly small thing that is of big importance in a group living environment where young children may wander the halls. "It was a nice upgrade to the facility, and we appreciate having the money to do that for the young women," said Call for Help Executive Director Cheryl Compton.
The Transitional Living Center also uses volunteers to lead a variety of life skills classes. "We have people from the community make presentations on parenting, nutrition, shopping, cooking, budgeting, housekeeping—anything to help these young ladies have the skills to maintain independent living for themselves and their children," said Compton. "That breaks the cycle of poverty and homelessness for these families.
"With the current economic climate, we couldn't continue to provide this service if it weren't for the participation of private donors like the Employees Community Fund," she continued. "This support from our Boeing family—and that's really how I think of them, as family—makes a difference in helping these young women become productive citizens, so there is a real payback for the investment they've made."