Building stable careers Beginnings: Genesis Jobs, a decade-old nonprofit company fueled by volunteers and church donations, has placed about 2,000 people in entry-level positions.

April 11, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Anthony Jones was losing his janitor's job because a city contract was ending when a friend told him about an unorthodox group of volunteers that works out of a former church rectory in Remington. They help people find and keep entry-level jobs for free.

Mr. Jones jumped at the news and soon found himself at Genesis Jobs Inc., a 10-year-old nonprofit company that holds group orientations on what employers expect and conducts private counseling sessions with job-seekers. Within a month, he had four job offers and became a laborer for a satisfied Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, general contractors.

It isn't always that quick, but after two months Mr. Jones said, "I'm so happy." He vows to follow the example of 2,000 other Genesis Jobs alumni who have landed and held nonprofessional positions because of a close partnership between scores of Maryland companies and the church-originated Genesis group.

Genesis Jobs has achieved its record using volunteer counselors, churches and private donations -- asking no fee from job-seekers and using no taxpayer money.

Its trademark is that it follows up. It will keep in touch with Mr. Jones for at least a year to assist if he has work-related problems or if his job turns out to be temporary, as some do.

The reach of Genesis Jobs is spreading. On Monday, Emily Thayer, the founder and executive director, said the company would open its second office, in the former school facilities of St. Brigid Catholic Church at South Robinson and Hudson streets in East Baltimore.

"We serve the unemployed not considered valuable human capital in our culture -- laborers and clerks and people who park cars and custodians," Ms. Thayer said. "Genesis means a new beginning for them."

She and Mr. Jones said it works this way: A job-seeker hears of the group, calls and is asked to come to an orientation session at the former rectory of the Church of the Guardian Angel at 2629 Huntingdon Ave. The same week, a counselor, often a retired businessman, begins coaching the applicant on landing a job. They talk about resumes, grooming, perseverance, interviewing techniques and ways to keep jobs.

News of jobs can come from counselors or applicants, who are expected to seek out friends, neighbors and companies to learn more about possible employment. Meanwhile, in weekly round tables, the counselor exchanges with other counselors and staffers ideas on the person and the search.

Often the one-on-one sessions and round-table meetings result in a Genesis Job recommendation to a company, a solid job offer and a job begun. Sometimes applicants are unacceptable risks and aren't recommended.

"The trust we build with Maryland companies makes it work," Ms. Thayer said. Job applicants aren't recommended to a company unless they exhibit positive signs. They must show up on time at meetings, cooperate with counselors, make serious work searches, work with others and sign a covenant.

The covenant requires participants to be accurate and honest in their job applications about work experience, education and training, military service, safety work record, serious conviction record, if any, and physical limitations.

Last year, 170 Maryland companies hired 248 people; 61 congregations of all denominations provided funds, volunteers or employers; 63 volunteers counseled applicants; and 338 xTC companies supplied jobs, volunteers, funds and services. This year's budget is $275,000.

"Genesis is so encouraging, but they are firm," said Mr. Jones, 37, who has been counseled by Roland Hertz, a retired social worker. Mr. Jones was covering linoleum last week at an affordable housing project for the elderly being built for the Shelter Group by Struever Bros. in Elkridge in Howard County. He has worked in a succession of laborer jobs since his 1959 Edmondson High School graduation.

His employers like what they see. "Tony's really blooming," said Eric Wimer, Struever site manager and Mr. Jones' immediate boss. "I push him to be the best he can be. Ain't nobody around here I don't push."

Mike Shacklette, Struever project manager, said his company and its subcontractors have hired 13 laborers and others from Genesis Jobs in recent years, with great success.

"When this job's done, Tony'll be in Baltimore working on another affordable housing project for the elderly," he said. "I ask each of our subcontractors to hire from the community and to use Genesis Jobs."

A grant from an Episcopal church in New York City helped Ms. Thayer begin Genesis Jobs at her church, the Church of the Guardian Angel. Five years later it became an independent nonprofit company, but with its work ethic and many churches assisting, Ms. Thayer still considers it "spiritual-based."

Two factors prompted Ms. Thayer, working for Episcopal Social Ministries, to act a decade ago.

"First, I remembered someone pushing me after college toward a career," she said. "Second, we help immigrants from other countries, but we sometimes forget people in East or West Baltimore. It's not easy for many of them to find a job either. We all work together."

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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