Idle hands are the devil's workshop. That's the premise of Project One Thousand, a volunteer program to find 1,000 summer jobs for Baltimore County high school students.
"We want to do what we can to discourage crime in our area," said Harold G. Gordon, the project's organizer. "We have to find meaningful things for kids to do, and I can't think of anything more meaningful than a job."
The project is sponsored by the Coalition of Concerned African American Organizations of Baltimore County, which will limit its job search to about 500 employers in the greater Liberty Road, Woodlawn and Catonsville areas, Mr. Gordon said.
The coalition doesn't have the resources to target the entire county.
Employers will be asked to provide youths with 20 to 40 hours of work a week and pay them at least the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour.
"We want them to be doing something substantial," Mr. Gordon said.
The coalition plans to have volunteers screen interested students at Milford Mill, Woodlawn, Randallstown and Catonsville high schools.
No date has been set.
Anyone age 14 to 19, regardless of race and income level, is eligible, Mr. Gordon said.
In addition to finding jobs for young people, the coalition will ask businesses to sponsor summer recreational activities, church Bible schools and other neighborhood activities.
The organization also will hand out job applications at a number of recreational centers to make sure they reach youths who have dropped out of school.
"We feel that we've lost control over some of our youths," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to establish some values and good work ethics in our kids."
Volunteers will help youths prepare for job interviews and will make follow-up visits to ensure that the job placements are beneficial to both parties, Mr. Gordon said.
Project One Thousand will complement Baltimore County's summer jobs program for poor youths, he said.
The county has enough money for only 850 summer jobs, half the number that would have been available had Congress approved President Clinton's economic stimulus package.
"There definitely is a need for more jobs for youths," said Gloria Sandstrom, the county's summer jobs coordinator, noting that the number of available jobs has decreased over the years. "Summer jobs are really valuable because youths learn responsibility as well as specific job skills."
Mr. Gordon said he was confident the coalition would reach its goal of 1,000 jobs. "I think that businesses will buy into what we're trying to do," he said.
Employers and youths interested in participating in Project One Thousand are asked to call 521-8444.