By Paul Newport
A couple of weeks ago, recognizing the growing threat of the current health crisis, Jubilee Jobs introduced an “employees only” policy inside the office and posted a note that our job-placement operations would continue although applicants should only contact us via phone and email. Securing that note to the front door was an upsetting and rather heartbreaking moment indeed. We believe we are an essential service and continuing to place our applicants in jobs is of great importance. But would we really be able to close the door on the men and women who need our services, eight days a week? Jubilee Jobs thrives on the energy of our applicants. Each new individual who comes into the office brings with them a deeply meaningful story, be it difficult, sorrowful, frustrating or defeating. And many of these individuals are the protagonists of brand-new stories, which they create once they head back out the door with a job, new-found confidence and an abundance of faith.
The answer to the question above is “no” – we were unable to close our doors on our applicants. As they peered past the note and through the window, they could see Beverly busily answering phones at the front desk. They could see Terry behind her, making photocopies of another article about “sharpening the saw” as George swept diligently next to Terry’s feet. They could see Desean rapidly typing out a message to his Emerging Leaders to stay present and aware. And, away in the back room, they could see Slim the dog, lying on his bed, sniffing the air as if he’d caught the scent of a not-too-distant job order. It would appear that Jubilee Jobs was humming along like any other day.
The applicant would knock, and of course we let them in. Rennard Turner needed help crafting another email to his disability caseworker, Carolyn Greene needed to be set up on a video interview with The Compass Group. Keith Gaffney stopped in to give us some of his inspirational thoughts on the way to work at Washington Hospital Center, and a gentleman stopped by randomly asking us to help him file for unemployment. When your office is a safe haven for so many, the calls for help do not cease.
While Jubilee Jobs is synonymous with employment, it has so many more irons in the fire. An applicant will come to us not only with a great need for a job but also with a deeper need for community, for security. Tara comes to our orientation on a Monday but on Tuesday we learn it is a new outlook on life that she is seeking. James quickly gets a job at the Potter’s House but bravely keeps coming back to us for help and advice about his addiction. When people come to Jubilee Jobs, they can find far more than a job if they need to. Those individuals will come and peer through the window, virus or no virus, because Jubilee Jobs exemplifies caring. So, when someone knocks, how can we not answer?
As a result, we’ve had no choice but to Stay at Home. It is that, or we unwittingly risk further injury by simply opening the door out of compassion. But our support for our applicants is still strong. Our ability to listen and to comfort, to encourage and to teach surpasses our inability to engage face-to-face. The search for jobs, the calls to employers, the ever-important checking in and connecting with our community are still our main agendas. Bonds and relationships we have with our applicants remain tight as we reach out to them and they to us. This support is so vital because it allows our applicants’ stories to be told. What is truly remarkable are the stories of our applicants and what they are able to overcome and accomplish despite the uncertainty of these times. And it is the persistence of Jubilee Jobs, with its many different lifelines, that allows these stories to be told.