Virtual job fair aims to offer a second chance



ELLSWORTH — Bumping shoulders with prospective employers and employees, a tradition at job and career fairs, is not possible under the current public health guidelines. So, like much of organized public activity in these pandemic times, Pastor Danny Jones of the Church of God decided to go virtual. Scheduled for Dec. 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the upcoming job fair is sponsored by Better Together’s Nationwide Day of Second Chances, a coordinated, cities-wide effort between churches and employers to offer job fairs with employers who are offering a second chance.

Six big companies with local presence have signed on: Hannaford, Walmart, The Home Depot, McDonald’s, Bankers Insurance and Adult Family Care Homes, with KFC/Taco Bell on the wait list. The fair runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with each prospective employer taking an hour slot to talk with up to 50 potential employees and set up interviews “right then and there on the spot,” Jones said. He noted that all the businesses have agreed to consider hiring applicants with a criminal record and no high school diploma.

Why a second chance job fair? With one in three U.S. adults arrested by age 23, a statistic shared by sentencingproject.org, many adults with criminal records face an uphill struggle to get hired, as do adults without a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma. The fair is “a good opportunity to let the community know there are jobs around if they want them,” Jones said, adding that even without barriers, finding work can be difficult: “When I was deployed [with the military] and came home, it was hard to find a job.” The fair is open to anyone who is looking to get hired.

Pastor Daniel Stewart of the RISE Church in Ellsworth knows the power of a second chance. Stewart runs the residential Restoration program for men who are recovering addicts, some entering the program straight from jail or prison. A “big part” of the program is helping the men find work, Stewart said. This allows them to save money for housing and other necessities once they graduate nine months later and keeps them occupied during the difficult days of early recovery.

“Those times of being idle, even small periods, can be toxic for people working in recovery,” Stewart said.

A recovering addict, Stewart said his life was changed by the Restoration program. He found his own path to gainful employment in the ministry and, unlike many in the program, did not have a felony conviction, a major barrier in finding work, he said. But on his mind today is a current resident.

Born in Africa and schooled in Egypt, the man then emigrated to the United States. “He made a few mistakes and ended up with criminal charges,” Stewart said. That, combined with his immigrant status, “put him in an impossible position to find work.” But once RISE was able to secure employment for the man, now in his 30s, “he began to see value in himself. You could see the changes in his self-worth. [Finding work] probably was his biggest struggle as to why he couldn’t move forward.”

For more information on the job fair, contact Pastor Jones at [email protected] or 385-6131.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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