Help When I was at my Worst

Being a single Dad of a 4 year old starting preschool isn’t easy. Without the support Dustin received he tells us that his daughter would have experienced more trauma. This wasn’t the life he imagined for his daughter so he decided to do something about it. 

With an army of support, Dustin has landed a job to help provide for his daughter, Vivienne. And we couldn’t be more excited for him. After he rang the bell declaring his new employment, Dustin shares with how his CityLink Family has helped him along the way…

“Brian with Catholic Charities has been a big help with working through being a positive structured father to Vivienne. Amanda, Tamiko, Derrell, Belinda, Christina, Nina, Carol, basically everyone in Cincinnati Works have been pro team Dustin from the beginning. Everyone at Children, Inc. are awesome kind-hearted people. The volunteers at the front desk are always smiling when I walk into the building. The whole atmosphere and interactions with everyone at CityLink is positive and up lifting. Monica is my service coordinator, Rachel has been my number two.”  

After a Clothing Connection appointment on Tuesday, Dustin will be off to work equipped what he feels is a foundation for his daughter’s life, the mentality of taking each day as it comes, and resting in knowing that his faith and his support system will be there for him as he keeps working on his goals. He leaves us with the sentiment “I am very thankful to have help when was at my worst”. We can’t wait to see how the choices that you’ve made over the past couple months shape your future and Vivienne’s too. Well done Dustin, we’re so proud of you. 

Called to Serve

Julie had a clear calling from God when she first came to CityLink – she was meant to pursue a career in ministry; however, she felt like she was stuck in limbo. She knew she had a calling from the Lord, but wasn’t sure where to start. She came to the career fair at CityLink, which was hosted by Cincinnati Works in May, to figure out how to begin her career. After visiting many potential employers, Julie decided to become a client and engage in Cincinnati Works’ Jump Start class to brush up on her resume building, interview, and networking skills.

Julie says that the Jump Start class built up her self-confidence and taught her useful interview skills that she wouldn’t have otherwise known. She also enjoyed meeting and networking with everyone else in the class. She adds that the skills she learned from this class have been very helpful, and that she will definitely use them to present herself to future employers.

Outside of class, Julie engaged in a multitude of services. She attended women’s group and bible study, utilized the drop-in childcare services at VISIONS Early Learning Center, and was even able to make dental and optical appointments for her entire family. Her children received much-needed dental procedures, and her fiancé was even able to receive a new pair of glasses.

The client-centered model of CityLink has been incredibly helpful for Julie and her family, especially since they are limited to one vehicle. She says that it is a huge time saver to be able to bring her family to dental and optical appointments in the same building where she is already engaging in classes.

Now that Julie has graduated Jump Start, she plans to become ordained and begin her career in ministry. Her biggest goal, she says, is to give back to the community and help anyone who needs help. Once her career takes off, she has goals of eventually starting her own ministry.

Trust in God’s Provision

Imagine you’re back in grade school… You know that feeling on the last day right before summer break? You’re so excited for the adventures but there is a twinge of sadness to say goodbye to the teachers you’ve gotten to know so well? Well that’s exactly how we feel when a class of Per Scholas students graduate and move on into the wonderful world of IT. But man, when they come back to visit it is simply a blast to catch up.

2016 Per Scholas graduate David (left)  recently stopped down to say hello (and goodbye) right before his flight to New Mexico! That’s right- David has accepted a position at Fluent Health. He’s pumped not only to continue to thrive in his work life (not to mention the bump in pay) but also get out there and enjoy that Albuquerque scenery!   

The grind that Per Scholas students put in day in and day out for 10 weeks is inspiring to watch. We love watching the progression of each class. Every 10 weeks we watch individuals transform their thoughts and feelings of self doubt and stress into confidence and victory.

When we find ourselves trapped in the fog of life it is easy to focus on the negative. But when clients like David show up two years later, we are reminded of God’s provision. We are reminded that a 10 week class everyday isn’t easy and stress isn’t fun.  When we are in it, in the ‘muck’, it’s all we can see. Yet, He still says “Trust Me” and when we do, when we get through it, like David did, God smiles down as says “I told you” and that my friends is a beautiful thing.

Finding New Success

Doris had moved from Cincinnati to Atlanta and was in search of a stable career when a friend told her about Per Scholas. After doing a bit of research, Doris decided it was exactly what she was looking for, and that it would be a great fit. She applied and was accepted into the Atlanta class. She focused on her goal of employment and persisted through many challenges. Unfortunately, despite her hard work, life happened, and Doris was unable to finish the program.

When a family emergency brought her back to Cincinnati, Doris discovered that Per Scholas had another branch at the CityLink Center. After some consideration, she decided to apply again. When she was accepted into the Cincinnati class, Doris made a vow to finish.

While the two programs are pretty similar, Doris says that she feels like the Cincinnati branch of Per Scholas has more of an advantage. She says that she has received a lot more materials like tool kits, flashcards, books, notes, etc. in Cincinnati than she did in Atlanta.

At CityLink, Doris also has access to services that she didn’t have in Atlanta, which she said has made all the difference. One of her biggest supports is the onsite VISIONS Early Learning Center, where she is able to drop off her children in the morning and pick them up after class. Having the daycare onsite also allows her to check in on her children throughout the day. Without this service, Doris says that she may have ended up missing class and being removed from the program.

“VISIONS has really taken a weight off my shoulders,” she says. “It’s so convenient, and I don’t have to worry about making extra trips.”

Aside from the daycare, Doris has taken advantage of optical appointments through the Health and Wellness Center, where she received new glasses. She has also received professional clothing for class and her future career through Clothing Connection.

Doris is on track to graduate from Per Scholas next week! While she was upset at first that Atlanta did not work

out, she says that she is so happy to now be part of Cincinnati’s program. After graduation, Doris plans to find an IT career

with opportunity for growth and perhaps head back to school to earn a degree in Computer Science. She also adds,  “Mr. Delrae said we’d all become a family, and we actually have. Everyone is supportive… They’ve been great! They told me, ‘You’re

going to finish this time.’ All the study groups are happy to help each other. They’ve become my family, and I’m going to miss it.”

We are sad to see them go but are so excited to see what is next! Best of luck Per Scholas grads- we’re rooti

ng for you!

A Perfect Fit

Alexandria first walked through our doors with dreams of pursuing a career in IT. When she walked into her first day of class, and realized that she was not meeting the dress code, Alexandria thought that that dream was shattered. She did not have any professional clothes, and was unable to afford new outfits on such short notice. Her Service Coordinator signed her up for a Clothing Connection appointment. Clothing Connection is a service through St. Vincent de Paul that provides professional clothing to CityLink clients.

During her appointment, Alexandria had help from volunteers who acted as personal shoppers and chose different outfits for her. She says that having this help made it much less tedious to find things, especially since she doesn’t particularly enjoy clothes shopping.

“Going through clothing racks is tough,” she says. “The volunteers actually listened and took my style into consideration. It really relieved my stress.”

Not only have Alexandria’s new professional clothes helped her with mock interviews at CityLink, but they have also helped her meet the dress code and stay in Per Scholas. Now that she has graduated, her new clothes will also help with job interviews.

“I feel brand new in my clothes!” she says. “I’m not usually a big skirt person, but when I dress up, I feel accomplished.”

Alexandria adds that she would recommend “the whole CityLink ordeal” to everyone. She says that CityLink has truly helped her reach her goals, and that Clothing Connection was a huge part of it. She is now able to present herself professionally for future career prospects.

“Clothing Connection has everything!” she says. “I believe everyone should take advantage of it.”

Reaching New Heights

Traveling to a new country was something Ryanna had never imagined. She had spent a long time overwhelmed with loans, life expenses, and unemployment. When she first heard about CityLink, she came by to check out Cincinnati Works in hopes of finding full-time employment. After finding a secure job, Ryanna realized that she needed help managing her finances. She didn’t have a savings account, had never built a budget, and didn’t know anything about credit. She got engaged with SmartMoney, where she was able to take classes like basic budgeting, understanding credit, understanding loans, and prioritizing debt while meeting one-on-one with an on-site financial counselor. Through this process, Ryanna was able to build a budget, begin building her credit, start her first savings account, and pay off all her debts. She says that SmartMoney has made her finally feel, “financially comfortable.”

In fact, Ryanna is taking a vacation to Cancun, Mexico with her saved money! This trip will not only be her first time out of the country, it will also be her first time on an airplane.

“I get to experience something I’ve never experienced in my life,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone through SmartMoney, I’d never be able to go.”

She adds that it is a relief, and is very exciting, to be able to take a luxurious vacation, not worry about her finances, and even have extra money set aside in case of an emergency. Instead of stressing about finances, she will be able to spend her vacation relaxing by the pool and enjoying Mexico’s beautiful sunshine. Ryanna plans to stay engaged with CityLink and continue meeting with her financial counselor to keep improving her budgets and savings plan.

The Road to Success

In December of 2016, life had become difficult for Gerald. As a single father caring for his disabled adult son, he found himself without a car or a job. He came into CityLink for the first time with goals of obtaining employment, paying off all of his debt, and purchasing a car through ChangingGears.

When he first began his journey, Gerald did not qualify for ChangingGears. Without a steady job, he was not meeting the earned income requirements to purchase a vehicle. He began regularly meeting with his job coach at Cincinnati Works to work on his resume. Eventually, he earned a job through his resources as a military veteran. With this new job, Gerald continued to meet with his financial counselor, and was able to pay off all of his debt and get approved for ChangingGears. The day he received the keys to his car, he was able to pay off his entire car loan as well! Now, he no longer has to spend $300 per month ‘Uber-ing’ around town.

While working towards his ChangingGears goal, he was able to visit the onsite Health and Wellness Center, where he received optical appointments and a new pair of glasses. He says that his experience with the Health and Wellness Center was great – scheduling appointments was very easy, and there was never a long wait time for appointments.

Additionally, Gerald took advantage of clinical counseling through Catholic Charities, and was able to receive professional clothes for interviews through Clothing Connection. He says that having all of these services in one location is the best part about CityLink, and that he recommends CityLink to different people all the time.

Gerald’s hard work for over a year finally lead to him purchasing a car from ChangingGears and allowing him to easily travel to and from work. Gerald’s persistence paid off, it’s what the bible calls Chutzpah. That fire in our belly that keeps us focused on our goals.  Jesus likes that kind of persistence himself. He is impressed by the Gentile woman who argues with him until he heals her daughter (Mark 7:26). He also tells a parable of a widow who keeps pounding on the door of the judge until he hears her case (Luke 18:1-7). If an unrighteous judge will grant her request because she is persistent, how much more will a good and loving God answer her prayers! This is to teach us that we should always pray and never give up. Doing so shows that we believe in God’s power and His abundant love for us.

Dedication Pays Off

Before coming to CityLink, Tonya and her four children were living in an area that she felt was no longer a safe environment. She attended a first-time home buyer fair through the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), where she applied for a house through Habitat for Humanity. Unfortunately, due to her debt, her application was denied, and Tonya felt stuck.

Monica, a service coordinator, told Tonya about the SmartMoney services that CityLink offers. Tonya came to an Information Session and quickly became engaged. She began meeting one-on-one with a financial counselor and worked incredibly hard to create a budget and a savings plan, with a goal of paying off her debt. She and her family experienced some ups and downs throughout this journey, and it was often times hard to stay focused on what she was trying to accomplish.

“I was just trying to keep faith in God,” she says. “That’s what pulled me through.”

Despite some of the difficulties, Tonya persisted, and was able to pay off her debt in four months! After submitting her Habitat for Humanity application, Tonya was approved for a four-bedroom home.  She broke ground on her new home in February.

Tonya says that SmartMoney taught her a lot of essential life skills. She learned how to budget and put money where it should be, which has made her more responsible and aware of her finances. Before going through financial counseling, she never knew how much money she had been wasting. Now, she is able to not only save money, but also have money left over at the end of each month.

Tonya hopes that her journey with SmartMoney and Habitat for Humanity will have an impact on her children. She hopes to teach them to persevere and go after their dreams instead of giving up, especially when someone says no.After her home is finished, Tonya hopes to help others with Habitat for Humanity. Her dream, she says, is to travel to other countries with her two oldest sons and help build houses for others.

“Going through SmartMoney and Habitat for Humanity has opened a lot of doors,” she says. “Now, I want to be able to help someone else.”

Transitioning Home

While staying at the Talbert House, Roland met a lot of the people that were taking advantage of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) at CityLink Center. Those folks seemed to be doing well, and Roland wanted what he saw through his friends. Having a felony on his record made it incredibly hard to find employment, so he decided to check CEO out for himself to see if he could get some help. The first part of this program teaches clients important skills needed to secure a job.

“It definitely got me up to par on modern job skills I needed to be employable again,” says Roland. “It had been a year since I’d had a job. This class gave me all the new pointers I needed.”

After graduating from Life Skills Education, Roland began working with the work crew – a transitional employment opportunity designed to give clients work experience and a paycheck while they look for permanent employment. The work crew largely tackles manual labor jobs, which Roland enjoyed because he hopes to pursue a career in construction.

In addition to CEO, Roland has taken advantage of a huge amount of services that CityLink has to offer. He was able to receive optical services, and received a new pair of glasses from the on-site Health and Wellness Center. He received a few professional outfits, as well as some clothes for the work crew, through Clothing Connection. He also regularly engages with CityLink’s spiritual services by attending spiritual counseling and men’s bible study.

Roland says that spiritual counseling services have helped him be accountable and rely on God. They have also taught him some commitment skills, which have helped him stay engaged with CEO and work towards achieving his goals. He adds that he would definitely recommend spiritual counseling to other clients because he doesn’t believe he would be able to reach his goals without it.

Roland was recently returned to his home in Middletown and says that even though he is moving, he still plans to be engaged with CityLink. His favorite part about being a client has been meeting new friends and building new relationships. He adds that the CEO program is run by really great people.

“This place has helped me become rehabilitated and transition back into society,” he says. “It’s been a process, but it’s definitely benefited me.”

Relentless Pursuit

Our God is a God of 2nd chances. Just like in the book of Jonah, when God sends Jonah into a broken city to restore it, He too pursues each and everyone of us to restore our brokenness.

When he first walked through our doors, Anthony says that his life was very stressful and negative. He went through a lot of life-altering situations that nobody should ever have to go through. He experienced homelessness, got involved with dealing drugs, and found himself in the middle of gun violence.

Anthony started his employment journey never having learned how to create a resume or fill out an application. Cincinnati Works taught him how to apply for jobs, introduce himself to prospective employers, develop his resume, and present himself as a hard worker. After a few short weeks, Anthony landed a job with AK Steel in Fairfield, which he is very thankful for. He says that he feels very positive about his future, and he would recommend Cincinnati Works, specifically the JumpStart workshop, a thousand times to anyone who is willing to listen.

Although Anthony is grateful for his job, he knows he could have more of a career if he earned his GED, so he decided to enroll in Academic Solutions to further his education. Anthony has plans to go to college, where he hopes to pursue a degree in accounting. Anthony dropped out of school in 9th grade, and never had the chance to pursue a higher education. He says that earning his GED and starting college courses will be incredibly rewarding.

Anthony’s favorite thing about the program is working with teachers and tutors who really try to help students understand all the subjects. Every night, he does his homework, and if he gets caught up on a question, he can bring it into class the next day, and the teachers help him break it down.

“Academic Solutions is really helping me learn what I was supposed to learn when I was young,” he says. “This is stuff I was supposed to learn back in the 9th grade, but I never did.”He adds that it will fill a void in his heart, and he is also excited to be able to continue his education beyond his GED and pursue a career in accounting.