Turning a Fundholder Idea into Community Action: Summer Jobs

August 13, 2014

One of the things we at the Community Foundation are most proud of is our work with individual fundholders to turn ideas into action, and start the process of building a legacy.

Take the example of a fundholder who wanted to make his hometown safer for pedestrians.  We took his inspiration, conducted the due diligence, identified the right local partners, and helped him create the Little Falls Pedestrian Decoy Operation, a week-long program in which plain clothes police officers monitored drivers’ responses to pedestrians and issued hundreds of warning.  According to the local police sergeant, the program “made a tremendous difference,” ultimately changing driver behavior.

Then there’s the fundholder who sought to reduce the number of unwanted guns in his community while deliberately avoiding the politics of gun control.  We initiated a conversation with the County Prosecutor’s office and provided the backend support to fund, advertise, and implement a county-wide gun buyback program that netted 218 guns.

Existing and aspiring fundholders who wish to strengthen their communities call us every week, and we take great pride in working with them toward collaborative and effective solutions.

This summer we’re proud to share another success story.

A longtime fundholder at the Community Foundation shared with us his passion for summer job programs for young people, and his belief that a summer job’s value is far more than its pay.  For young people considered at-risk or from low-income families especially, summer jobs provide a sense of structure, myriad learning opportunities, new skills, an introduction to working according to a schedule, and a confidence boost at a critical time in their lives.

PHOTO: Appolliana Rowe (middle) is working this summer at the Center for United Methodist Aid to the Community (CUMAC) through the Paterson Alliance Program.  Her job is funded by a donor who worked with the Community Foundation.  So when this fundholder told us that he’d like to support effective summer job programs, we got to work.  We researched what goes into a successful summer job program, got a handle on the available programs in the area he cared about (northern New Jersey), spoke with employers and employees, conducted site visits, and ultimately recommended a series of options based on our research and benchmarking.

This summer marks the fourth in a row in which the fundholder is supporting summer job programs we helped find or develop for him – six programs in all this year, employing more than 80 young people.

The six programs are:

  • CityGreen’s “Growing Strong” Program, which provides internships for high school students from inner cities.  The students work as camp counselors in Paterson and also at a Clifton farm that sells fresh produce at a Paterson Farmers Market.
  • Project Use Pedal Farmers Program, in which young people grow their own produce in Newark, refurbish old bicycles, and use the bicycles to transport the fruits and vegetables to a Newark Farmers Market. Through this process, the students learn the fundamentals of running a small business.
  • NABE Teens at Work Jobs Readiness Program, which places young people as camp counselors in Morristown and emphasizes the development of leadership skills.
  • Project Self Sufficiency, which specializes in professional training and local employment for young people from low-income families in Sussex County.  One particularly useful part of the training is how to fill out a job application.
  • Paterson Youth Services Give and Receive Program, which provides short-term job opportunities specifically for at-risk youth who have had legal issues, with an emphasis on giving back to the community, education, and promoting a positive peer culture.
  • Paterson Alliance, which runs an apprenticeship program that places young people in jobs at local nonprofit organizations where they learn how a nonprofit serves the community but also must meet its own administrative needs. The youth also receive valuable training and career education.

While the fundholder’s top priority is to provide more summer jobs to northern New Jersey youth, he notes that he’s often most moved by the letters he receives from young people detailing what they’ve learned over the course of their jobs – namely respect for fellow employees and interns, a greater appreciation for the hard work required to supervise children (in camp settings), the discipline to wake up and be at work at a specified time, and how best to take direction from supervisors.

The peace of mind that comes with the structure and stability of a summer job, particularly for at-risk youth and their families, is hard to measure.  But we know that thanks to this fundholder’s idea and willingness to act, hundreds of young New Jerseyans will have gained new skills and gotten a preview of the professional possibilities that await them. And a philanthropic legacy is born.

To support a summer job program in your community – or to maximize the impact of your giving – call us at 973-267-5533.