PHOENIX — "Transforming lives through employment, is the slogan behind an Arizona organization that is helping many people return to the workforce and become self-sufficient, productive members of their communities.
At St. Joseph the Worker, much of the focus has been on helping the homeless get back to work, but they are also help the working poor, felons who have been released from prison, and recovering addicts who are working to get their lives back on track.
One of their clients is Jeff Mylander.
Mylander tells ABC15 he had very low self-esteem and did not consider himself to be worthy of employment before he met staff at St. Joseph the Worker. He lived a life of crime and spent time in prison. After his release, Mylander found himself living on the streets, where he turned to alcohol and drugs as a way of coping with life.
"I sell myself short more than society does. I have more excuses against myself. That is one important thing I have learned. Yeah. I was just at my wit's end. I knew something needed to change, but I didn't know what, or how," said Mylander.
Mylander was willing to do what it took to turn his life around. St. Joseph the Worker not only helped him put a resume together, but they helped him find a place to live, clothes to wear to job interviews, coached him through questions that would typically be asked in a job interview, got him bus passes to travel to those job sites, and even helped him with tools and equipment he would need once he started the job. The organization also helped Mylander get a forklift license.
"We've always done one thing. You know you need a job, come to St. Joseph the Worker. We are going to help you get a job," said Brent Downs, executive director at St. Joseph the Worker.
Over the last 30 years, Downs said the organization had helped put 30,000 people back into the workforce. For the last couple years, they had helped about 5,000 people a year. The organization has stayed open through the pandemic, and has now being seeing a different type of client.
"A lot of people that haven't experienced unemployment are experiencing it for the first time now. It's very traumatic. This is a crisis for them," said Downs.
He added that they met many people who felt they had no marketable skills after having worked in the restaurant industry for decades.
"Everybody has a marketable skill. You worked in a restaurant? You are skilled at customer service. That is a huge skill. Many employees are looking for customer service representatives," said Downs.
The organization helped Mylander get a job at Suntrac, a company that puts hybrid climate systems together. Mylander worked as an assemblyman who put air-conditioning panels together, and was grateful for the employment.
"There was never any judgment. I am sure I am not unique. They deal with similar people," said Mylander.
Devin Cooley, co-founder of Suntrac said they were glad to partner with agencies like St. Joseph the Worker.
"We're actually grateful for organizations like this that give a second chance to people looking for work and that want to work," said Cooley.
If you need help you can contact St. Joseph the worker at www.sjwjobs.org or call them at 844-SJW-JOBS.