Harbel gets grant to connect people with jobs

Ruppersberger, Rawlings-Blake praise efforts to rebuild lives

February 23, 2010|By By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

When a congressman arrived at a city community service organization along with Baltimore's mayor and other officials last week, Quincy Lewis expected the worst.

"I thought, with the economy, they were coming to close down our program," said Lewis, 37, a recovering drug addict.

But instead of shutting it down, the officials announced a $225,000 federal grant that will allow Harbel Community Organization to expand jobs training. Lewis immediately made plans to enroll in that program, once he completes six months in rehabilitation and recovery.

He offered glowing testimony of the organization, which, from its headquarters on Harford Road, has served neighborhoods throughout northeastern Baltimore for 40 years.

"I am on the road to recovery," Lewis said. "Harbel is giving me the tools. I had been using drugs for years, until this place actually helped me. I can see a future and a job."

The three-year federal grant will enable Harbel to hire a business coordinator to match applicants to area job needs.

"This program will deliver help right to the individuals who need it," Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said at a news conference Thursday.

Patricia Quinn Stabile, director of Harbel's prevention and recovery division, said employment is critical to "putting a life back together." An expanded training program will also help seniors, displaced homemakers, veterans, disabled workers and others learn skills in demand today, she said.

"People come in here all the time to stare at our jobs vacancy board," said Naomi Benyowitz, Harbel's executive director. "This can help everyone."

She unveiled a plan that she hopes will become a model for other organizations. It involves identifying an employer's need and providing job seekers with the training to secure those positions.

"We will find the training to match the job," Benyowitz said. "If you want to make silver-tipped pens, we will find the person to make the best pens possible."

Harbel runs a small vocational program for recovering substance abusers, but participation has been limited to city residents. The federal money will allow the organization to "open this program to anyone anywhere who needs a job, including many of our seniors," Benyowitz said.

Ruppersberger, who helped to secure the federal funding as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was quickly sold on the concept.

"We are coming out of this recession, but jobs are critical," the Baltimore County Democrat said. "Harbel can help people train and connect to jobs."

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said Harbel has established a history of providing "long-term solutions to the city's most pressing challenges."

"With help from job counselors, Harbel is guiding people into stable, good-paying jobs and the entire city will benefit," she said.

Pat Ford, 65, hopes to take advantage of the new training. The West Baltimore resident found herself downsized, unemployed, and without resources a few years ago.

"I felt like I was kicked to the curb in a job market that belongs to the young," Ford said.

A jobs program through the Baltimore County Department of Aging placed her in a part-time clerical position at Harbel, but Ford is continuing to search for a full-time job.

"Thanks to one program, I have part-time work and thanks for another, I have found another niche to upgrade my skills."

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