Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Year in Review

2010 has been a year of tremendous growth for the Michael Chavez Center beyond our expectations;  we have been blessed just as we serve as a blessing to others.  We entered the year with a newly refurbished facility and a new name, carrying forward the passion of deceased small business and Monument Community advocate Michael Chavez.  We began the year with three small programs and ended with four expanding programs; we began serving 120 people each year and this year ended serving nearly 800 individuals; we began with four full time staff and ended with nine; we began with four committed volunteers and ended with nearly thirty.
                However, this past year is about much more than numbers and program growth.  It is about people and the building of new relationships and opportunities.  It is about staff, program members, volunteers, Board members and partner agencies who care deeply about each other and the community.  It is about funders who uphold accountability and who support organizational sustainability. Through all these blessings, our impact on individuals and families—significantly raising self-confidence and skill levels in addition to developing new job and business opportunities—has been nothing short of tremendous. 
                Members of our day labor program have new skills and are demonstrating newfound assurance in publicly speaking about both their joys and their concerns as vital members of the community.  For the technology program, classes have been booming; new course offerings and an Internet awareness initiative bring computer learning directly to those who seek it.  Students are amazed and how they are now able to help their children with homework, find useful life-changing information on the internet, and seek new opportunities for employment.  A new career development program has gotten off to a great start, adding a new buzz to the center with skill assessments, resume building, interview coaching and job searches constantly taking place. A cooperative development program, which had launched one business in 2009, now boasts three cooperative businesses and is looking at new prospects for personal training, asset development and financial access.
                The bottom line?  The Michael Chavez Center is part of a movement that is seeing a community transformed as people contribute skills, exercise leadership, collaborate with others, and make use of the economic opportunities that are available to them.  In this way, blessed through the Center, they too are becoming a blessing to all those around them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Computer Repair Students Earn Nation-wide Recognition

On November 30, Marina Gonsalves and Rosa Navarro returned to the Chavez Center nearly 6 months after graduating from their A+ Computer Repair certification course.  They were surprised to find themselves the recipients of the IT Merit Award Scholarship, which “recognizes the outstanding accomplishments by students and adult learners” according to the CompTIA Education Foundation website.  CompTIA is a nonprofit association focused on advancing IT professionals and companies by offering among other services, internationally recognized IT certifications.  As part of their programs, CompTIA also gives back to the community through their Education Foundation, which aids those under-represented in the IT industry to gain access to training through opportunities like the IT Merit Award Scholarship.

Each semester, teachers of CompTIA courses – like our A+ certification course – nominate up to two of their students to receive the award.  Of the hundreds of graduates across the country, only a selection of 25 students earned this $250 scholarship for pursuing an IT career.  This year, the two nominees from the Chavez Center received the prestigious recognition.  “I’m still processing the fact that I won [this award],” Marina expressed as Stride Center instructor Norm Trudeau presented her with the certificate.

“It says a lot about the students that the Chavez Center brings in,” commented Norm.  “They come here with a certain level of dedication.  They want to do something with their lives.”  Marina, for example, really put herself out there, sharing her skills and strengths for the benefit of everyone in the class.  She would spend time helping those who were not native English speakers to really absorb the information. 

Rosa’s story was a little different.  At the beginning of the class, she was very intimidated and overwhelmed.  Despite setbacks and frustrations, Rosa persevered and overcame the intimidation, graduating the class with flying colors.  “Really any of the students in that course could have been nominated,” Norm reflected.  “[These two students] really exemplified the purpose of the Stride Center and the Chavez Center and their commitment to give back to the community.”

From here, the women plan to continue their IT careers.  Already Marina is working through another CompTIA certification, taking the next important steps toward becoming an IT expert.  Rosa has also worked on developing a computer repair cooperative business to continue building her expertise.

This is just the beginning.  With the first group of A+ computer graduates showing such success, we cannot wait to see what this second group has in store when they finish classes this week.

Congratulations to Rosa and Marina!  We all wish you the best of luck in pursuing your careers!

We also want to extend a big thank you to Norm Trudeau and Stride Center for the phenomenal level of instruction through which you have empowered students to step into a brighter, IT-filled future.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Landscapers Learn Competitive Edge

The evening of November 29th was a chilly one, but inside the Michael Chavez Center it was warm with smiles and congratulations radiating from the proud graduates. A ceremony was held for the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) students who committed to 2 weeks of training at the Center. The class trained local landscapers on how to use water efficiently in their everyday landscaping work—saving their customers’ money and protecting a valuable ecological resource.

This was the first QWEL class taught in Spanish in the East Bay area, and the results were astounding.  The class filled up very quickly and had a long waitlist.  What’s more is that with the support of the Contra Costa Water District and amazing instruction from Lori Palmquist, an irrigation expert, 100% of participants in the class passed the standardized exam!  Equipped with official irrigation certification, local landscapers are now much more appealing options in the competitive job market.  Congratulations to all who completed the class, and we wish you the best of luck in your future jobs.
We are glad to have been able to collaborate with Lori and the Contra Costa Water District to offer this course to the community and look forward to continuing to build this partnership.  With a high demand among local landscaping companies and individuals, the Chavez Center hopes to offer this class and others like it in the future.

As an economic development organization we are constantly look for new ways to help our community gain skills and become more employable. As a Bay Area Green Business, the Michael Chavez Center also fully supports initiatives that help spread the word about eco-friendly business practices.

If you are a local business, we’d like to hear from you!  What types of classes and certifications are you interested in receiving?  E-mail us and tell us about your ideas!

Day Laborers Learn to Teach Others

Spending three long days at the Hayward Day Labor Center, Fernando, Armando, and Carlos eagerly listened to the instructors, learning all they could about job safety and health so that they could become certified to become teachers themselves.

(Left to right) Armando, Nati, Fernando and Carlos
 at the Hayward Day Labor Center.
During the month of November three of our Day Labor program members attended a training at the Hayward to become certified as Worker Occupation Safety and Health specialists. The certification provided through UC Berkeley and OSHA authorizes them to train their fellow members and promote safety in the work place. “The members showed enthusiasm and great leadership skills during the training,” Nati said of the men.

Daily the workers encounter challenging weather and dangerous work conditions at their jobs.  The knowledge and training that these certified specialists received at the course will prepare the workers and help them to prevent health issues and injuries in the future.  At the same time, these members of the Day Labor program are stepping up as leaders in their community, taking responsibility of educating, informing and empowering their peers so that all of them can step into a brighter future.

Beginning next year, these certified specialists will hold regular workshops for the other Day Labor members on the various topics covered – OSHA, workers compensation, MSDS, hazardous chemicals and more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Bank for Mechanics? -- And other Adventures in Learning English

On a street corner in Lafayette a group was debating the sign on a building that read “Mechanics Bank.”  Was it a bank just for mechanics?  Nah, couldn’t be.

A bank for mechanics?
Many discussions such as this one took place on November 12 when Chavez Center ESL students from each of the three levels took their language skills to the streets.  Accompanied by teacher volunteers, Phyllis and Cindy, the students set out to maneuver their way through the BART system and schedule.  After purchasing their tickets, the students rode to the Lafayette station where they disembarked and set out exploring Mt. Diablo Blvd. before hopping on a train back to Concord.

The trip was a surprise and an excitement for everyone, including the teachers.  Cindy was surprised to find all of the students so interested in signs.  Street signs, store signs and others were the topics of discussion.  “Not a through street” was just one of the many messages that students worked to discern.  And why were there clothes in a place called “J&O Bank”?  Students also saw this field trip as a chance to ask the teachers some of the questions they have had about English.  One student brought up a question about the difference between “we can” and “weekend,” confused by how they sound so similar.   Cindy noted how these sorts of questions arise “especially among those who have learned English by listening.”

Students learn how to purchase BART tickets.
Overall the field trip was very rewarding with an exchange of lessons among students and teachers alike.  Based on this adventure, the teachers held lessons that revolved around the many types of signs they had encountered, as well as a review of the BART map and schedules.

This trip is just one of the ways the Chavez Center is working with volunteers and members to provide a cutting edge, hands on learning experience.  Already there are plans for another excursion in February that, like this one, will integrate learning English and discovering local resources.

Did you know the Chavez Center is currently assessing the expansion of ESL classes to reach more members?  You can support us in this endeavor!  If you are interested in volunteering your time as an ESL teacher, we’d love to hear from you – please e-mail or call 925-682-8248.  We also need your help funding projects like these.  Just $100 could fund the expansion of ESL to 30 more students for one semester.  Donate here!  Thank you for your support.

Thanksgiving: Aromas-style

Aromas Catering, the newest cooperative launched through the Chavez Center had their debut catering gig at our Thanks for Giving event on Friday, November 19th.  Rather than a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the event, the Chavez Center called in Aromas to create an exciting lunch meal to honor the volunteers at the event.  Carving their own niche in the catering world, Aromas put together an appealing menu of healthy foods with a Latino flare.  Aromas breaks the mold making dishes that are healthy while retaining the delicious taste.  Those at the Thanks for Giving event agreed, helping themselves to seconds and even thirds of the orzo salad, mushroom chicken breast and caramelized onions and green beans.  “You would not know this is healthy food based on its taste,” one volunteer commented of the food.
Staff member Nati Flores presents the Aromas sign.

Equipped with a plan and financial backing provided by the Chavez Center, Aromas members were prepared and excited for their first catering event.  “This is only the beginning,” commented cooperative member Marta Esteban, who is enthusiastic for a bright future.

Over the summer the Aromas members were just one of the many potential businesses that participated in our cooperative development training classes.  Learning about business plans, marketing and more, the members of the catering enterprise emerged with a strong, viable proposal for the future.  The Chavez Center invested in Aromas, not only creating jobs for these worker-owners, but also stimulating the local economy.

After planning, developing and launching their business, the timing could not have been better.  Just two months after finishing their cooperative development classes, we approached Aromas to cater our Thanks for Giving event and to give them the opportunity to officially launch their business. The volunteers were impressed by Aromas and surprised to learn that it had been their first event based on the level of professionalism and the quality of the food.

Aromas already has two opportunities to cater Christmas parties.  If you, your office or a friend are looking for someone to cater your holiday party Aromas is ready to add to your holiday cheer!

Contact Aromas today!
(925) 413-7145

Aromas' choice in serving healthy foods is an attempt to reverse problems of obesity in the Latino community.  Traditional foods tend to be unhealthy or unbalanced, which leads to improper nutrition and oftentimes an excess of fatty foods.  All of Aromas' food is balanced and nutritious to promote better eating habits.

Wardrobe for Opportunity Outfits Career Development Job Seekers

By Audrey McKee

Ken works with Miss Mahogany to pick out a pair of work shoes.
Each client puts in a lot of time and effort to land a job – from building and refining a resume to hours of networking and job searching.  Perhaps the most daunting task for job seekers is the interview.  A one-on-one interaction with a potential employer often unnerves the interviewee in the hot seat as he strives to string together words that best articulate his experience.  To add to the pre-interview nerves is the question of what to wear.  Two Career Development program clients found themselves face to face with the clothing dilemma after working to reach the interview. 

Aware of the fact that attire plays a significant role in how a candidate is perceived in an interview, the Chavez Center has partnered with Wardrobe for Opportunity to alleviate the stress of buying appropriate work and interview attire.

Ken Dias had an upcoming interview with The Home Depot as a department manager, and needed to sharpen his professional image.  After a visit to the Wardrobe for Opportunity store, Ken walked away with business suits, shirts, sports jacket, shoes and accessories to make that all too important first impression.  Ken expressed his deep gratitude saying, “It was a great experience. They really cheered me on and helped me feel at ease with the process.”
Alana thanks everyone who helped her put together a new wardrobe.

Alana Dynes is hoping to land a position with the Oakley Unified School District as an assistant teacher.  She has been through many life changes over this past year, but has found a huge dose of encouragement at the Chavez Center.  According to Career Development Program Manager, Audrey McKee, Wardrobe for Opportunity equipped Alana with outstanding customer service by Miss Barbara and Miss Ruth. “They were caring, encouraging and fun!”

The partnership with Wardrobe for Opportunity has proven an empowering addition to the Chavez Center in showing our clients that they are important and in giving them a shopping experience they will not soon forget.  With professional outfits, these job seekers can focus their attention on preparing for interview questions rather than obtaining interview clothes.  Reflecting on her shopping adventure, Alana revealed, “I never thought I’d be in need of this kind of service. I am really thankful and humbled.”

We would like to give a big thank you to Wardrobe for Opportunity and the confidence they inspire in the clients we serve at the Michael Chavez Center.

You can help us build confidence and create hope.  By donating just $50 to the Michael Chavez Center we can equip one of our many job seekers with the wardrobe they need in their pursuit of employment.
Alana radiates confidence in her new outfit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks to all for Giving

Special thank you to Aromas for catering the event.
El Yahualica, Korean Bul Go Gi House and Luigi’s Delicatessen also donated to making the event a success. Thank you!

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for.  At the Chavez Center, we give thanks for so  much – the funders, the members, the staff and of course the volunteers that enable the Center to be so successful in reaching and transforming the community.  The Chavez Center took its own twist on the traditional Thanksgiving, hosting a “Thanks for Giving” event to recognize all of the volunteers who have given their hearts, minds, time and effort to the Center and the community.

On November 19 volunteers from the past year reunited at the Chavez Center to enjoy a delicious lunch catered by Aromas – the business that the Chavez Center most recently helped develop.  Bul Go Gi and El Yahualica also donated food to thank volunteers for the significant role they have played in serving the community.  While they enjoyed the lunch, volunteers from all different backgrounds and programs mingled, sharing their experiences in working with the Chavez Center and the Monument community.  Volunteers then received a certificate and a gift of appreciation for the considerable hours of work that they have put in to the Chavez Center.

In the past year, more than 50 volunteers have donated more than 700 hours as board members, ESL teachers, IT assistants, office support, childcare providers and in countless other positions.  Through these community efforts the staff and Center as a whole has been able to reach out to nearly 1000 community residents.  Following the presentation of certificates and dessert, volunteers lingered to mingle with community members, find out the recent updates from the Chavez Center and express their passion for serving. 

The Chavez Center looks forward to building stronger relationships with our volunteers as we go into the next year.  Their service to the community has been tremendous and we honestly could not do what we do without them.

Are you interested in getting involved?  The Chavez Center offers rewarding volunteer experiences in ways that fit anyone’s passions and ambitions.  Our current needs include ESL teacher, SSL (Spanish as a Second Language) teacher, computer class assistants, general office support, skills training workshop teacher and more.  If you or your organization is interested in volunteering time to serve the Monument community, e-mail, call 925-682-8248 or visit us in person.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CEO Impressed by Computer Repair Students

With 5 months completed in their 6-month long training, students in the A+ computer repair course put their training to the test last Wednesday when they visited Ascent Services Group for a mock interview.

To prepare for the this interview, as part of their training each Friday participants learn and practice professional skills that will enable them to dive into a career in IT after graduating the course and earning their certification. Working in groups and one-on-one the class has learned skills in networking, preparing a 30-second commercial, building a resume and practicing interview questions. For some, these Friday sessions hold a significant importance as they come from fields that are very different from technology.

When it came to interview skills, many found the mere thought of a one-on-one drill down of questions a very intimidating process. Putting in many days of hard work, the task became less daunting for the students.

With hours of training under their belts, on November 3, the students walked into Ascent confident in their abilities and skills. When they met with the staff, student Juan Moreno recalls, “They were very nice to everyone and they made everyone feel comfortable. That set the tone and made me feel comfortable." The students took turns in one-on-one interviews with two different people from the company. Following the mock interviews each participant received personalized feedback to refine the many skills that make a successful interview leave a lasting impression. Moreno says that his interviewer “provided some helpful tips on how I should respond to certain questions and how my posture should be. After the interview, I was so excited that I wanted to go through another one.”

Overall the Ascent evaluated the group as doing an excellent job and asked for their resumes to refer the students to other companies. The CEO of the company expressed how impressed he was with how the course has trained them and prepared them for the interview.
Going into the interviews Heri Garcia was intimidated with the added fact that he was entering a field he had little experience in. Still he was glad he went commenting, “I left feeling empowered, and more capable of tackling the job market.”

With just one month left of the 15-hour a week training, the students are buckling down on their studies as they turn their eyes toward the certification test and the careers that lay ahead. The students, Stride Center and Chavez Center would like to extend a thank you to all of those at Ascent Services Group for empowering them with the confidence and capabilities that will enable them to succeed in the job market.

by Heri Garcia & Jacqueline Elliott

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chavez Center Speaks at the Immigration Forum

On Wednesday October, 20 2010 Nati Flores, the Day Labor Program Manager, represented the Michael Chavez Center as part of an immigration forum at Carondelet High School. The forum aimed to provide a comprehensive discussion of immigration issues. In addition to our very own Nati Flores, five other panelists attended to give their expert and personal opinions.  Among the panelists were:
  • Rick Oltman, the media director of a nonprofit organization that pushes for enforcement of the borders through state and local government
  • Sister Maureen Duignan, Executive Director of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, which is a nonprofit organization that’s raises funds to protect, support and advocate for low-income immigrants and refugees in need
  • Shannon Connolly and Claire Logan, two students representing Carondelet High School

In some way or another nearly everyone is affected by immigration issues.  As the different perspectives were voiced, some tear-filled eyes showed that for some it is an issue that hits close to home.
Attracting over 600 Carondelet students and staff the forum lasted an hour and a half.  Each panelist began with a short introduction to describe themselves and to express their views on the numerous issues surrounding immigration.  Topics included reform and why it is taking so long, the current status of undocumented immigrants in the United States, the value of border control, anchor babies and the cultural enrichment brought by immigrants.  Following the introduction, panelists field what seemed like an endless supply of questions. Nati commented on how “oftentimes the distinction between immigration and discrimination disappears.  A forum like this provides useful information that illustrated this issue.” 
All in all the forum was a success bring to light many issues that affect us right here in Concord.  The city is home to more than 34,000 immigrants who face daily the legal, economic, social and cultural barriers that come with relocating to a new country.
“It was gratifying seeing all those young minds working together,” Nati reflected on the event.  “After all, the goal was to show the students both sides of the coin so they can form their own opinion and have a more open vision of our community.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Breakfast Break

On Wednesday the day laborers filed into the Chavez Center at 6am as they do every day, but on this day they were met with a special surprise – breakfast!  Many of the workers were thankful to grab a bite to eat before they headed out to work for the day.

The breakfast that the members stumbled upon that morning was the result of collaboration between St. Agnes Church and the Chavez Center.  Members from the church approached the Center with the desire to serve their community.  They had an inspired idea to bring the members homemade breakfast with ingredients from their own home gardens.  After delivering the nutritional meal of eggs, bananas, cinnamon, and muffins -- complete with the necessary bottle of hot sauce – the church members lingered around the Center to visit with the members.  One of the day laborers, Manuel, shared stories of a job he had trimming palm trees.  He impressed the guests with pictures showing him perched in the top of one of the towering trees.  Others mingled with the generous members from St. Agnes, exchanging the stories and expressing their gratitude for the delicious food.  The workers look forward to the now monthly visits from the church.

St. Agnes is just the newest partnership with groups who are ambitious to serve our community.  Others like East Bay Formosan United Methodist Church and Faith Christian Fellowship have also worked with the Center to provide regular lunches and Holiday dinner respectively.  Some even take on the endeavor on their own.  Frequenting the Chavez Center at least once a week, Hilda brings various meals for members.  Another volunteer stops by the Center to provide fresh produce.

The members and staff alike are thankful for these relationships we have built that give back to the community.  We look forward to working with other groups as they seek to find more ways to sponsor projects aimed to serve.

If you or your organization is looking for a way to get involved, contact the Chavez Center by e-mail or by phone today!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We are not Powerless

As it turned out, the Chavez Center was in fact without power on the morning on October 28. That is not to say that we are powerless though. Despite the power outage, the Chavez Center conducted business as usual, improvising as needed. From the few laptops on site, the staff moved to nearby windows for light and continued to press on through the never-ending list of items to take care of. The day laborers hardly noticed the lack of electricity as they remained attentive to a civic engagement workshop about immigration issues, asking many questions about the process that for some hits close to home.

Slowly but surely computer students entered the Center ready to participate in that day’s lesson. They soon found that their lesson would be much different that day as the computers would be showing nothing but a blank screen. Without missing a beat, the computer class teacher taught eager students in the dimly lit room. “We reviewed previous material, and used our imaginations,” reported Elba, manager of the Technology Empowerment Program. The students participated in all of the discussion not letting the lack of computers impede their learning.

By the time 10am ESL classes rolled around, we found ourselves still without power. Volunteer teacher, Cindy, rolled with the new development, teaching classes in the open meeting area rather than in their pitch black ESL room. The students were not discouraged by the noisy room, but excited by the change of scenery for their class.

An outbreak of cheers erupted from the staff and students alike when the lights flickered back on. Whatever comes our way, we are not powerless.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two More Careers Started!

We are fortunate to be able to see lives and families changed here at the center ever day as they triumph over the many obstacles and hardships that stand in their way. This week at the Chavez Center, saw two stories play out first-hand of clients gaining employment through our programs. These individuals are shining examples from our Career Development program that show what we are accomplishing together.

Rodolfo Collantes’s career has taken him from his homeland of Peru, to Japan, and now the U.S. where he is committed to advancing his career. Rodolfo is bilingual in Spanish and Japanese and his dedication to improve his English motivated him to take ESL classes at the local adult school.  With his enthusiasm for getting ahead and his can-do attitude he landed a position with the local Marshalls department store. “The Career Development program helped me find English classes, but what really made a difference for me was the self confidence they helped me develop.”

Bryan Lyons has been with the Chavez Center for some time working when he could through the Day Labor program's job connections.  He had been working part time in construction, but realized he needed to change when his baby daughter was born.  He needed not only a higher income, but also to be a role model to his daughter. For Bryan, it was time to make a change for himself and his family, and transition from a having a job to having a career. With a little guidance he created an outstanding resume and in no time landed a full time job in a coffee shop. Bryan sees his future with much more optimism saying, “This was a really important step in my career for both me and my family.”


You can help support clients in landing a full-time job or even meeting their short-term needs.  If information about hiring a worker for your various project needs, call the Chavez Center at 925-682-8248 or put in a request online.  We also appreciate any and all volunteers and donors, which help make stories like this happen every single week.  You can donate online, securely through Paypal or send a check to:
2699 Monument Blvd, Suite G
Concord, CA 94520

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

English, Employment, and Riding BART -- How it helps the community

by Jacqueline Elliott

In the United States, speaking English is vital to employment.  As a Center that revolves around ensuring economic stability for the community, regular work is the key.  Since English skills increase job opportunities and job opportunities increase economic security, it sounds like ESL classes are needed.  The Chavez Center has been offering ESL classes as part of the day labor program for years with much success.  In September, the classes started up again looking slightly different than they have in the past.  Thanks to the dedication of our experienced ESL teachers and volunteer tutors, the Chavez Center has been able to expand the classes to cater to three different levels of English fluency.  The addition of three tutors has not only allowed for the expansion of the classes, but has also prompted students to open up more and receive more one-on-one attention.  One teacher talked about a student who would not talk to her, but after one short session with the tutor, improved by leaps and bounds.  She said, “He never spoke much in class.  He was always very quiet.  After class today he was shaking [the tutor’s] hand and saying ‘Very good.  Muy bien.  Very good.’” 

To take ESL classes to the next level and encourage this progress, the new most-advanced Level 3 course doubles as a computer class as well.  Taking advantage of the accessible computer lab, the students learn about various resources that they can explore on their own to practice their English outside of the class at home or at the public access computer we provide at the Chavez Center.  As an added benefit, the students also practice computer skills including navigating the Internet, writing e-mails, and composing documents.
Public access computers for students to use online
resources to practices their English skills.
In the spirit of hands on learning, the ESL classes are also gearing up for field trips around the city to give students practice dealing with real-world scenarios that they might encounter throughout their days.  From traveling on BART to ordering food at a restaurant, the opportunities open up as these students become fluent in English.  Suddenly they have many more resources and tools at their fingertips, which allow them to find more employment and support themselves.  The success is already apparent as one teacher commented on the irony of her advanced class: “Attendance has been low lately.  But I guess that’s a good thing because it means they’re [the students] are going out to work more, which is the point of these classes.” 

Success after Success for Career Development

by Audrey McKee and Jacqueline Elliott

Audrey Thompson reports the great news about her new job with AEGIS!
Since the addition of Career Development to the programs that the Chavez Center offers the community, there seems to be constant stories of success.  In just two months, the program has already taken on over 25 clients – already more than halfway to their one-year goal.  The majority of these clients have come in feeling disheartened and discouraged in their job search.  Through the process of resume-building, interview coaching, and job hunting, case manager Audrey McKee guides clients through self-discovery and builds their self-confidence.  One particular member Antonio, a member of the day labor program and computer class student, approached the Career Development after having found his poetry plagiarized and published in Mexico.  While he pursues his dream of publishing his poetry in the United States, he sought a job so he could pay his rent and support himself.  After building a resume, which up until that point he had never heard of, Antonio applied to work at Macy’s, a job he was offered three days later.
In the Career Development program, clients reveal their potential as they find encouragement and motivation to seek out a better future for themselves.  As they meet with Career Development staff, clients are able to identify their transferrable skills that will aid them in their job search.  The story of now-employed Audrey Thompson shows this.  Audrey came to the United States from Nicaragua with a grasp of English and a limited education.  In August she came to the Chavez Center’s Career Development program in search of guidance and support.  She soon enrolled in ESL classes and began volunteering at the Center.  Using her past work history and the skills she accumulated over the years, Audrey received a polished resume and immediately applied to AEGIS in Concord.  On her own initiative, she followed up on her application and after her first interview she was hired.
These are just a few examples of the community residents that come to the Chavez Center in search of career guidance.  Their backgrounds are rich and diverse ranging from an aerospace engineer to someone looking to work for the very first time.  Through the Career Development, there is a job connection for everyone if only they invest their time and energy in realizing what they are truly capable of achieving.  We look forward to many more stories of success from the Career Development program.

Chavez Center is "Green" with Pride

by Tess Gellerman

The Michael Chavez Center is proud to announce it has received certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program as a “green” business. Being sustainable is an important aspect of what the Michael Chavez Center does. Our mission is to transform the community and we do that both through long term development of the local economy and through environmentally sustainable practices. We have been working hard to improve the way the use our resources and how we handle waste. Here are some of the ways our office is green:
-We buy paper products (such as copy paper, paper towels and toilet paper) that are made from recycled materials
                - We recycle all paper, bottles, cans and plastics
                - We print double sided or on used paper whenever possible
- We use efficient light bulbs and motion sensors that automatically turn off lights in order to conserve energy
- We use low-flow toilets that use less water per flush

One of our cooperatives, Green and Clean House Cleaning has also received certification and our other cooperative, Evergreen Services, is just one step away. If you would like your office to become green as well, check out to see how.

First Annual Community Cup

by Nati Flores and Jacqueline Elliott

By 2:00pm the Chavez Center members trod off the field dripping in sweat, but proud of the soccer game they had played in the First Annual Community Cup.  Though they knew they did not make enough goals to overtake Monument Crisis Center, they knew that together they had accomplished one goal – to raise awareness of the Monument community and the organizations that serve them.
On September 11 community members from all over Concord gathered at Meadow Homes Park to enjoy food, raffles, art displays, and of course the anticipated soccer match.  The Michael Chavez Center partnered with the Monument Crisis Center to launch this event for the first time with the hope that the event will only expand in upcoming years.  The Crisis Center, like the Chavez Center predominately serves the Monument community of Concord.  While the Chavez Center focuses on long-term development, the Crisis Center addresses short-term needs to get community members on their feet providing emergency resources such as food, English classes, and more.  Besides raising awareness and funds, the organizations intended the Community Cup to also emphasize the importance of exercise and to promote the local businesses who sponsored the event.
The First Community Cup was a success, raising a net gain of over $800 for each organization and bringing attention to the Monument community. Prior to the event, both organizations had the amazing opportunity to interview with Univision’s “Al Despertar!” to discuss their services to the community and to publicize the event.  The Michael Chavez Center would like to thank all of the sponsors who made this event possible, and congratulations to the Monument Crisis Center -- but look out, we’ll be practicing for next year!

FREE Self-Paced Basic Internet Class for Seniors helps them get ONline with their lives

By Angelia Baxter

Computer exposure is something that many may take for granted; however, for many seniors it is truly a luxury. Thanks to a grant made available by Senior Services of America, Generations Online makes it possible for seniors 55+ to learn the basics of the internet free of charge.  In a world where things are so fast paced and technology driven, it is easy to get left behind, and that is where this program comes in.  It removes the anxiety and frustration of trying to keep up with an entire class by offering self-paced, 1 on 1 training sessions.  What makes this program so great is that it is coached by other patient and understanding seniors (Peer Coaches).  Students learn basic mouse skills, internet usage, how to create and send emails and search on the internet.  Each student once completed will earn a Certificate of Completion.  In partnership with the Chavez Center, Generations Online is now providing computer coaching in both English and Spanish to better serve the Monument Community.  The Center welcomes Carmela, who will be here for sessions five days a week from 1 to 5pm.  For more information or to sign up for a session today, please stop by the front desk or call 925-682-8248. 

Technology Program Encourages Community Leadership

by Elba Velasquez

Part of the Michael Chavez Center’s mission is to develop new leaders and provide employment opportunities to the Monument community.  As an area with an exceptionally high unemployment rate, empowering individuals with the tools and resources to become self-sufficient not only benefits themselves, but all of Concord as they have more to contribute to society.  In line with this mission, the Technology Empowerment program is proud to announce two new Technology promoters.  We welcome Fabiola Cardenas and Maria Caro del Castillo, who are both former and current students in the computer classes offered at the Center.  In September they began working to promote broadband awareness workshops and the Chavez Center’s other various programs.  After receiving training, the pair will begin to run the workshops on their own, coordinating the entire program from recruiting participants to connecting with organizations across the East Bay to hold the classes.  In addition, they will also be teaching at least five workshops per months.  Through this internship opportunity, these women will not only gain invaluable work experience, but they also earn money to support their families.  In this way, the Technology Empowerment program is creating community leaders and role models while lowering unemployment.  We wish a warm welcome and all the success to Fabiola and Maria.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Kick Off is a Touchdown

All photos were taken by Kathy Weires

by Jacqueline Elliott

Latin jazz floated through the hot air as Concord community members visited shaded tables at the Chavez Center’s Fall Kick Off and Open House event on September 28.  Though the day felt more like the dead of a sweltering summer than a welcome to fall, many community organizations and residents braved the heat to find out more about the Chavez Center and others that serve the Monument community.  Those in attendance helped themselves to cool lemonade as they visited community resource tables, entered in the free raffle, and heard speeches from government officials, program directors, and others.  After the tickets were pulled for the winners of signed footballs, a souvenir bag full of school supplies, and a computer, the celebration moved indoors for tours of the Chavez Center.

In the comfort of the air conditioned Center, those in attendance explored the various programs reading success stories from Career Development, finding out about the community service the Day Labor program contributes, admiring the work on display from computer class students, and learning about what exactly a cooperative business is.  In addition to wonderful display boards and fall decorations, the Chavez Center was also dotted with “Did you know?” signs that pointed out the donations, volunteer work, and other facts about all of the pieces that put the Center together – from the tile floor laid by the day laborers to the computers donated by Chevron to the sink installed by a volunteer.  The combination of it all really gave a sense of the community ties and relationships that everyone contributes to make the Chavez Center as successful as it can be.
While many residents visited the Center and left with valuable new resources, many stuck around awaiting the Oakland Raiders special guest.  At last, Sam Williams, a backup linebacker and Concord native, arrived at the Center.  He spoke to members of the community, toured the Center, and signed autographs, lighting up the faces of many.  Williams encouraged the audience to “set your goals, believe in yourself, believe that you can achieve your goals, and always have a positive attitude.” After his speech, Chavez Center member Antonio gave back to Williams and thank him through a poem he had written once he hear that Williams was coming.  According to an article on the Oakland Raiders website about the event, “Williams was both impressed and humbled by Antonio’s poem.  ‘It [the poem] was one of the highlights of the afternoon,’ stated Williams.”  Williams definitely succeed in lifting spirits, motivating, and giving back to his hometown.  As program manager Audrey McKee said, “His presence at the Center not only brought great publicity, but also made community members feel like they were worth something for an Oakland Raider to take the time to meet with them.”
Overall, the event was a great success and brought a strong sense of optimism to the Monument community.  This inaugural Fall Kick Off event really illustrated the impact we can make by taking action together.  The Chavez Center thanks all of the community organizations, volunteers, and residents who made this event possible.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome to the Chavez Center blog!

Audrey lands a job, Bob connects with a student learning English, and Maria takes computer classes so she can be involved in her daughter's school. We want to share how our community is "Stepping Up" to make a difference. These are real people making real changes right here in Concord. These are the stories of how we're all working together to build confidence and inspire each other to pursue a better quality of life.

With so many ongoing updates, achievements, and celebrations at the Chavez Center, and so many community members to keep informed, we are proud to announce our new blog, The Steps.  At the Chavez Center, we see each member success, job placement, ESL graduation, workshop demonstration, community partnership, business launch, staff addition, and computer class enrollment as another exciting step toward the ultimate goal of creating employable, self-sufficient members in the community.  Through our blog "Stepping Up" we will highlight the steps of progress our programs, partners, and community members are making.  The Chavez Center is devoted to creating opportunities for community residents so that they may pursue a more economically stable lifestyle.  Through our 4 program areas -- Day Labor & Civic Integration, Technology Empowerment, Cooperative Development, and Career Development -- the Center has been successfully offering essential services to the otherwise underprivileged, under-resourced Monument community.

We hope that you'll support and follow our new blogging effort so that we can share with you the journey to success that we are fostering together.

Keep on the lookout for the next step the Chavez Center is taking on our path of economic development.