At the Betances Houses in the Bronx, archdiocesan Catholic Charities hosted a Professional and Financial Empowerment Fair to help residents improve their employment prospects as they face economic fallout from Covid-19.
Staff and volunteers also distributed more than 1,700 boxes and bags of food.
“We were able to have a number of the residents learn more and begin the process of getting jobs,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, in an interview with CNY about the Aug. 14 fair.
“At Catholic Charities, helping somebody get a job is such an important part of what we believe enhances the dignity of the person. It’s a very important part of fulfilling our mission, so that is why we added a job-exchange component to our services there last Friday. We hope to do it again in different places.”
Msgr. Sullivan noted that the fair’s participants could access the job exchange electronically “and we had staff and volunteers there who helped the people who were interested in registering and participating in the process of the exchange.”
“Through artificial intelligence, they are matched with jobs that are there (in employment listings), so that individuals are aware if there are jobs that match their skills. The jobs are far ranging; there are entry level jobs, there are technical jobs, a wide range.”
The fair provided interview training, resumé coaching and resources for residents to gain access to employment opportunities, skills training, health insurance coverage, rental assistance and financial literacy. The resources included online skills-matching procedures intended to match job seekers’ skills and talents with listed openings.
The food distribution, which aided 350 households, included 560 boxes of non-perishable food, 560 boxes of fresh food, 300 bags of canned food and 300 bags of fresh produce. Facemasks and face shields, thermometers, professional clothing and toiletries were also distributed.
The fair, open to Betances residents only, was designed to assist residents seeking employment or struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Masks and hand sanitizers were available, and social distancing guidelines were enforced during the three-hour event.
One of the job seekers who attended the fair was Maryam Aifa, 17, who is looking for a job to help pay for college and help her family. She resides at Betances Houses with her parents and three sisters.
“They matched me with jobs that I could qualify for,” she told CNY. “So I did that and I’m still looking. I’m trying to get a cashier job, or being an intern at an IT company.”
Also on hand at the NYCHA Betances housing complex on East 146th Street were representatives of Catholic Charities event partners: BronxWorks, HSBC Bank and Wavecrest Management, which manages the housing complex.
Other Catholic Charities representatives included Paola Martinez, director of social and community services, and Marion Boteju, corporate secretary and chief of staff to Msgr. Sullivan.
“We had staff and Catholic Charities volunteers there to help sign up and educate people about (the online procedures),” Ms. Boteju said. “Residents gave us their information so that we can follow up with them.”
Nearly 50 residents participated in the jobs-search process; about half took part in the online jobs-matching effort, and the rest made inquiries and obtained informational material.
“Now with the Covid pandemic, people are really pressed for jobs, especially clients that Catholic Charities serves,” Ms. Boteju explained. “Some industries that have been the most impacted by Covid include hospitality and restaurants, but everyone has been impacted...This (online process) is also a tool to help people build their skills.
“We had (employment agency) staff on the back end remotely, tracking the number of people that we were signing up, making sure the registrations were happening.”