R2C Timeline COMING SOON!
Ready2CONNECT, Inc. is a non-profit organization that focuses on career readiness for families facing unemployment and underemployment barriers in Effingham & West Chatham Counties. The organization offers a 3 month, community-based, customized case management career development program: CONNECT (Community Network Navigation Empowerment Career Training). With open enrollments held quarterly, the CONNECT Program includes a 12 week, 100 hour career readiness curriculum in which participants acquire skills and tools necessary to help them acquire and retain employment.
Unique to CONNECT is the financial component of HELP (Hope for Everyone Looking for Provisions). HELP is a community supported program that provides a variety of work resources and support services for CONNECT participants as they transition to financial independence. To receive assistance from HELP, participants must commit to “Give Back” to the program and community by volunteering a minimum of 4 hours per week for the duration of the 3 month career program at various partnering community organizations, which also serve as soft-skills training sites.
Story by: Susan Lee
Courtesy of EFFINGHAM MAGAZINE
Anyone who meets Destiny Bradshaw in person will agree that she has confidence, determination and, most importantly, faith. But whenever a nagging doubt does creep in, she says she looks in the mirror and gives herself one of the same pep talks she’s been giving individuals and families in need for years. She uses phrases like “Faith and fear cannot exist in the same space” and “When you follow your passion, that’s when doors open and you thrive”.
Back in 2008, Destiny’s family was one that suddenly needed help when her family was in a financial crisis. So she got resourceful, making calls and doing research to find the resources that could help the family through their crisis. Through all of this, the vision for HELP (Hope for Everyone Looking for Provisions) was born.
Initially HELP was a directory of resources available to individuals and families experiencing economic setbacks. In 2010, she approached Bonnie Dixon, Area Director for Effingham County’s United Way with the idea. “She saw the need and understood the vision. I’ll be forever grateful and thankful to Bonnie for giving me the opportunity to turn my family’s hardships into purpose.”
It wasn’t long before HELP evolved into a program at the United Way of the Coastal Empire Effingham Office, coordinated by Destiny and structured as the financial component of the agency’s Center for Working Families.
In the time since Destiny and the HELP program were featured in Effingham Magazine in the spring of 2013, she is proud to have taken the next step and created a new nonprofit, Ready2CONNECT. The organization began operating independently in January 2016 and solidified their 501(c)(3) status in March.
The mission of Ready2CONNECT is to empower families to achieve career and family success by providing self-development programs, access to community resources, and community partnerships that promote educational, emotional and financial wellness. Ready2CONNECT helps with career readiness, financial and emotional empowerment, GED prep and literacy.
Financial assistance for clients enrolled in Ready2CONNECT is provided by HELP, which is largely funded by the community through churches, fundraising, grants, businesses and civic organizations.
While creating and launching a new nonprofit has been an exciting chapter for Destiny, she admits to some real moments of fear at the beginning. “I felt the pressures that every other newly formed non-profit feels very quickly,” she says. “I kept asking myself ‘Where’s the money? Where’s the staff? Where’s the time to serve all of the people that God’s sending our way?’’ She shared her fears out loud to the Ready2CONNECT’s board president, Eric Owens, suggesting that perhaps she should return to education part time while working to secure funds for the new organization.
Destiny recalls, “He said, ‘You will not. We’re with you 100%. This is a great organization and we’re going to see this through’. I’ve never told him, but I needed to hear those words at that moment.”
“But I’m not alone in this journey,” she adds. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful team that includes board members, volunteers, interns, community partners and donors.”
According to Destiny, to date, 134 individuals have completed the career readiness program and received work support assistance through HELP and now Ready2CONNECT. Of those individuals served, 83 percent have secured gainful employment and are financially independent. The average for the HELP program to equip and empower an individual to be able to provide for their family for a lifetime is $750.00 in In-kind and Monetary donations.
“It’s a blessing to be able to come together within a community to bless others who are so motivated to turn their circumstances around,” says Destiny. “It’s continually heartwarming. I am thankful that the Lord has blessed me with a career of passion and I am grateful that He allows us to make even a small impact in the lives of so many families as they overcome various obstacles that encroach their lives as a result of unemployment or underemployment. At the beginning of each orientation, I share my family’s experiences and tell them the importance of their own transparency. It’s healing.”
Velvet Callender was the very first client of Ready2CONNECT. Even though she had experience in the healthcare industry as a personal assistant and has an Associate’s Degree in Human Services, she was new to the area and her knowledge of area resources was very limited. She was directed to Ready2CONNECT and, after completing the program and experiencing a few setbacks along the way, she’s ready to fly.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Ready2CONNECT’s generous partners, Velvet now has a job and a new career in the making as the HELP program is covering the cost of her license to become a pharmacy tech.
And just this month, Velvet received a surprise donation in the form of a gently used car from David Panitzke, a community supporter and member of Gateway Community Church. He also graciously offered to cover the cost of insurance, tag and title.
“I am grateful and thankful for every person that I have met along this journey,” says Velvet. “Settling here in this area I would like to continue lifelong relationships with the people and organizations that have been a part of my life. I thank God for each one of them for fulfilling the purpose in God’s plan.”