Jericho Partnership is several months into CityServe, a joint initiative with the city of Danbury designed to reach into new pockets of need in our city. Here’s an update on the two main projects within the initiative – Project CleanStart and our South Street School Partnership.
They endured the hottest of summer days out on Danbury’s streets, picking up trash, painting fire hydrants, pulling weeds, cleaning the parking garage, and more – and now that Project CleanStart is breaking for the winter, participants and volunteers can look back on a successful pilot program.
“This program was an overwhelming success,” said Jericho’s Harry Pugner, who served as CleanStart project manager. Over the course of the program, which began this spring, 20 homeless men and women participated; all but eight finished, and today, five of them have secured at least part-time jobs outside of the program.
CleanStart was designed to impart valuable life and job skills to our homeless neighbors as they worked on projects selected by the city; each participant (vetted to ensure they were engaged with case managers) worked two four-hour shifts per week under the supervision of Jericho volunteers, who served as team leaders and job coaches. As the program progressed, some worked four days in a week. At the end of each week, team members received compensation in the form of gift cards.
Before the program ended, each team member was required to fill out a job application and go through an interview process, as if they were applying for an actual job, Pugner said.
“This project next gave the team members a positive look at how our city government cares for this population,” said Pugner. “It also allowed CityCenter merchants the opportunity to get a better perception of those in need. A few of the merchants thanked the team members, provided them with water, and let them use their restrooms.”
“The work we do at Jericho is always about transforming lives, and this program has had a direct impact on the lives of 20 people who are facing difficult challenges – not to mention how it impacted our volunteers and anyone who witnessed how our homeless neighbors contributed to the beautification of our city,” said Carrie L. Amos, Jericho’s President.
South Street School Partnership
Four mornings a week, just as the school day begins, South Street Elementary School’s cafeteria is filled with the sound of reading. Adults reading to kids; kids reading back to adults. Laughter and high-fives. This is the sound of progress.
The Reading Buddy program is into the third month of its second full semester at the school. Today, 25 students are being mentored by volunteers who desire to help them improve their reading skills. Plans are in place to double the census during this academic year, according to Jericho President Carrie L. Amos. The need is great.
You see, these children are from families where English is not spoken at home. Many have parents who are immigrants and, for a variety of reasons, simply cannot help them with their studies. So they fall behind. Far behind. Jericho’s Reading Buddy program – underway at this Title I school recommended by Danbury school officials – is already making an impact.
Although the program is still so new, those participating have either maintained or slightly improved the grade level at which they can read and comprehend. Others – who struggle with other challenges in addition to reading – are making untold progress simply by demonstrating an ability to sit with volunteer Reading Buddies.
“Each of these children has needs we might never fully comprehend, but each of them has the potential to soar,” said Amos. “Our Reading Buddy program helps unlock this potential by addressing a most basic skill – the ability to read. The volunteers who work with these children are such a gift. We can’t turn our backs on these kids, so we DO need more volunteers to serve even just one hour per week, in the morning before most people go to work, to work with these students,” she said.
If you’d like to help unlock the future for these children, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and say you’d like to be a Reading Buddy.