Ten years ago, while running a for-profit business, Sandy Schultz decided to change her life’s direction so that she could help others to change theirs. She founded the WorkFaith Connection after seeing how difficult it was for people who had strayed off the path to return to a life of work, social interaction and community.
The WorkFaith Connection is a Houston-based nonprofit devoted to helping the disadvantaged thrive by equipping them with job and life skills.
“Our primary purpose is to help men and women to work — men and women that want to be contributing members of their community,” Schultz told Everyday Heroes Radio.
“A large percentage of the men and women that we help have been in prison, struggled with addiction or homelessness or some other barrier that is going to make returning to employment difficult,” Schultz continued. “They’ve finally reached that place in life where they’ve turned their life around and they’re headed in the right direction, but gaining employment is all about what you’ve done in the past. There’s nothing on an application that says, ‘Tell me why your future is going to look different than your past.’”
In 10 years, the organization has helped almost 3,500 people, about 75 percent of whom have been released from prison and are trying to gain employment. Others are people who simply have been on the job hunt unsuccessfully and are doing all they can to maintain hope.
The WorkFaith Connection helps in a multitude of ways. Among them is an eight-day work boot camp where participants learn essential job skills.
“For eight days, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Schultz says, “they are literally practicing interview questions, having mock interviews, really tightening up their resume, putting words to the skills they have and desiring to meet the need that they have (so) that at the end of eight days, they are well-positioned to present themselves.”
Those who graduate from the boot camp are then welcome to join the WorkFaith Academy, where participants learn life skills like time management and life and interpersonal relationship skills such as dealing with conflict.
For Matt, an offender who had just been released after 10 years in prison, WorkFaith became a saving grace. After a friend and fellow former inmate referred him to the program, Matt was skeptical. He felt he had decently marketable skills from his life before prison. In fact, what he really worried about was building community. He found the opposite to be the case. He couldn’t find a job, but at WorkFaith, he built close relationships.
“I definitely learned some practical job skills while I was there,” Matt said, “but primarily the program was about breathing life into what seemed to be some pretty lifeless circumstances. The way it happened for me was just the social interactions.”
The WorkFaith Connection is run entirely on donations. If you’d like to contribute or learn more about the program, check out the organization’s website, workfaithconnection.org.
To listen to the full Everyday Heroes Radio episode, click here.