Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Grants as we Step into a New Year

Over the years , the Chavez Center has had to learn some hard lessons about funding. Like many nonprofits, the Chavez Center found the search for funding quite arduous. Fortunately, a hopeful future is on the horizon for 2011 as several organizations are funding us for the first time and others are renewing their funding. These funders have found value in the services we’ve worked hard to build, and they want to make sure that the community continues to have these opportunities.

·         PG&E is a first-time funder for the Chavez Center.  They are contributing to the new Career Track classes in the technology program. These classes are designed to integrate job readiness, technology training and ESL into one rigorous course. At PG&E that say “that a community's energy doesn't always arrive through power lines.”

·         San Francisco Foundation has accepted the Chavez Center in the second year of a three year Job Training and Placement program. Job training and creation grants expand training and employment opportunities for residents who have struggled the most to find work. We are thankful to SFF for fervently supporting nonprofits in a time when “joblessness remains high, home foreclosures persist and safety net providers…banks face more demand than ever.”

·         Anonymous donor from the East Bay Community Foundation provided a first-time donation to the Chavez Center for our work in economic development with immigrant and low-income communities.  The foundation itself works toward advancing economic opportunity for adults and families in need, particularly adults and families facing significant barriers to employment.

·         Thomas J Long Foundation visited the Chavez Center on December 8 to meet staff and present a check to us for the first time.  With admiral work in economic development, the Chavez Center is very grateful to have the Long Foundation’s support.

·         California Transplant Donor Network was referred to us by a currently enrolled Stride student.  Through his work and the CTDN’s generosity, the Chavez Center has received dozens of computers, printers and other technology to provide to community members who are lacking these valuable resources.  Find out more about our Adopt a Family: Tidings of Technology project and how you can help us pass these computers on.

·         Contra Costa County EHSD CalWorks will be utilizing the Chavez Center as a location for their Welfare-to-Work Program in 2012 for all non-English speaking clients. Welfare-to-Work is a comprehensive Employment and Training Program designed to promote self-sufficiency.

Our funders and supporters bring hope to our clients
as they work hard to transform their lives.

Save a Few Bucks: Drink Water!

Healthy and Active Before 5 (HAB45) kicked off December with great reminders on eating well, living actively and watching your health. They’re all things that you’ve heard before… Exercise is good for you. Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Avoid sugary drinks. …and so on. 

But when you’re with HAB45, there are suddenly tons of reasons to be listening to these messages. First of all, they’re fun. Creative tasks like mandatory standing ovations break up the everyday meetings and bring laughs and encouragements to everyone. The point is to get on your feet, get the blood pumping, and avoid becoming a desk-bound lump.  Just as their name says, it’s all about being healthy & active.

Many people think that staying healthy can be hard.  Well, it could be as simple as looking at what you drink.

And what should you drink? Water!

When you consider making healthy choices, maybe it’s not just about preferences.  It’s also about cost. Compare the price of a bottle of water to an equal sized bottle of soda, juice or Gatorade. If you’ve been to the store lately, then you already know that water is much cheaper. But what if we could take it a step further?  

Don’t you already pay for water?  That’s right.  The pipes and faucets are telling signs that you already have water coming straight into your house. Tap water in most of California is actually among the best in the country, and in Contra Costa County it’s even better. Just as the Contra Costa Water District.

And when you hash out the numbers, who could argue? Fiji water runs about $2-3 per bottle (about the same price as that Gatorade you might buy).  That amounts to about $32 per gallon.  And how much is your tap water?  One penny buys you 3 gallons! (And who said a penny doesn’t buy you anything these days?)

Next time you’re considering buying bottled water or juice or soda, think about the fact that each of those costs more than 300 times your water at home. Plus, that water at home is likely better for you.

At the Chavez Center we love the message that Healthy & Active Before 5 is spreading. Healthy and active living is great for anyone – whether you have a job, are looking or are a stay-at-home parent. 

5 HUGE Steps Forward in English

In the words of program manager, Elba Velasquez, “We’re making history!” On December 2, computer class students celebrated the completion of their ESL class.  This is the first time the Chavez Center opened ESL classes to technology students, and it proved to be a great experience for volunteers and students alike.  But don’t just take it from us, here are the 5 HUGE steps that our students have taken thanks to English:

·         “For a long, long time I have prayed for help and for English classes. I have been working for 14 years. Two weeks ago I had an evaluation and it was the first time I understood everything.” – Benilda

·         Leandro runs his own business and has children that he often helps with homework.  “I need to study English for my customers. I now know the past tense and can speak in more than just the present [tense].”

·         “This class helped me understand a lot with new verbs. When I go to my appointments with doctors and nurses, I have to speak English. I don’t speak a lot in class, but I have to speak in my appointments.”

·         The teacher pointed out that Sandra had the highest attendance and was always on time. Sandra thanks the class for giving her the English skills she needed to get her citizenship. She has been a U.S. Citizen for 6 weeks now.

·         “I feel comfortable talking to people at work. I’m sure of what I am saying. And I’m able to help my kids now.” -- Evila

Volunteer Spotlight: Zack

When we think of volunteering in the community, we often think of the people we are helping, the impact we are making and that amazing feeling of being a part of something big. Seeing eyes light up from your work can become an encouraging memory that sticks with you for life. These are the heart-warming intangibles that community service focusses on. What about the tangible benefits? When you play the role of the ever-important volunteer, you not only get the “feel goods,” but you often find yourself educated, helped and transformed by the experience. Many volunteers at the Chavez Center know this, including Zack Feere who basks in this Volunteer Spotlight.

One of the students Zack has
helped teach English.
Zack came to the Chavez Center with a clear understanding of his goals – he would be going abroad to teach English. “I always knew I wanted to teach abroad, and teaching ESL was the way to do that,” says Zack.  Along with a handful of others, when he came across the opportunity at the Chavez Center, he jumped on it. The project: give life to a new ESL class for technology students. There was neither a curriculum nor a textbook, just the understanding that the students must learn English skills they could apply to the workplace and getting a job.

There was one guiding light: Rosemary Slavin, who has become a beloved ESL teacher here at the Chavez Center. Zack, who had very limited experience in ESL expressed gratitude for her leadership in the class. “Rosemary was great in giving us the opportunity to teach our own classes,” he says.  As Zack became a regular instructor in the class, developing and leading his own lessons, he gained the experience that has launched him into the next chapter of his life in January.

After wrapping up his third master’s degree, Zack will embark on an adventure to spend a year in Colombia teaching English. He thanks the Chavez Center and this opportunity for how much this has helped and prepared him. Not only did volunteering qualify him for the program, but it also has set him up to pursue ESL certification.

What did Zack like most about the class? “It was chaotic and a lot of fun. The students were wonderful, and always in a good mood.” And if he does come back to the Bay Area when he gets back, Zack said he’d definitely be back to volunteer with us.

The moral of the story: never underestimate the help that volunteering can bring to all involved, those who serve and those served.  

The Chavez Center would like to give a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who made this first-ever ESL class possible: Rosemary, Donna, Kay, Miranda and Zack.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

H&R Block Recruits at the Chavez Center

The competition is stiff for finding employment in any industry these days, but computer students from the Chavez Center got themselves one step ahead of the game when recruiters from H&R Block visited in November. Their search for bilingual customer service representatives lead H&R Block to the Chavez Center, where Spanish-speakers can gain computer skills, learn English, gain confidence to qualify for jobs like these.

Several computer students looking for jobs in customer service met as a group with the recruiters to learn more about the opportunities within company and to make a good impression in hopes of landing an interview.
The meeting was a success for everyone involved. For the students it was a chance to practice all of the interviewing, networking and job search skills. This was the moment when all their practice came together for a real job opportunity. 

At the same time, representatives from H&R Block found it to be an equally valuable experience. Sharon Degener, the regional recruiting manager’s praised, “I was so impressed with all the students here today. Every single one will be passed through to the interview stage. Bilingual employees are in high demand for H&R Block and the computer students at the Michael Chavez Center have the language, computer, and customer service skills we are looking for.”

If your business is in need of Spanish-speaking employees, contact the Chavez Center to take advantage of our free placement services.