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Event bringing together employers and job seekers to be held Thursday

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Apr 28, 2021

news@breezenewspapers.com

The second consecutive Nationwide Day of Second Chances will be held Thursday in Lehigh Acres and Bonita Springs to bring together employers and job seekers.

The Nationwide Day of Second Chances will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29, at Rise Christian Church, 50 Bell Blvd., N. Lehigh Acres and Turning Point Church, 3405 Pelican Landing Parkway, Bonita Springs. The event will include social distancing and wearing of masks to ensure all involved are CDC compliant.

Better Together CEO Megan Rose said the organization began in 2015 and has helped more than 34,000 job seekers, as well as kept 3,000 kids out of foster care.

“We are really proud of our work. We do it all through the power of the community,” she said of the hundreds of volunteers, church and civic groups.

The organization helps parents who are going through a hard time, by keeping their children out of foster care, while also helping them find work and address the root causes of their struggles — all so the family can stay together with tools that will help them thrive.

The nonprofit organization provides support through a hand-up, instead of a handout.

“We focus on employment because we realize a lot of families are in crisis due to job loss. Financials is an underlying issue,” Rose said.

The organization works with churches to host job fairs, which are full of volunteers that are trained to provide coaching and help build up confidence and connect job seekers with employers that in the past have hired on the spot. In addition, Rose said they provide bus passes, haircuts and clothes to further boost the job seekers’ confidence to help in creating a hope-filled event to make everyone feel welcome and not judged.

This approach provides an equal opportunity and humanizes the job process, she said, adding it gives the employer the opportunity to hear the job seeker’s story, rather than being fixated on their resume, or previous felony or conviction.

“We have done over 100 job fairs across the country in 21 different states,” she said, adding that those who are not connected to work that day, 60 percent find employment in six weeks. “One out of three get hired on the spot at job fairs.”

This is the second consecutive year that the Nationwide Day of Second Chances is being held nationwide to focus on the more than 650,000 Americans faced with challenges reentering the workforce.

Rose said there will be more than six employers at the Bonita Springs location and more than 10 businesses seeking employees to hire in Lehigh Acres.The employers are looking to fill a very diverse group of divisions.

“A lot of these jobs are great career opportunities and they are background friendly,” Rose said of hiring returning citizens. “People can walk in knowing with a felony on record, employers are looking to hire them. We make it safe for job seekers walking in the door.”

Keepsake Plants HR Manager Stacey Santos said they have a lot of openings in Alva with about 60 to 65 positions still needing to be filled. There are two farms, both on State Road 80, one is 80 acres and the other 40 acres.

The business Keepsake Plants is a division of horticulture that was once Yoder Brothers before part of the business was sold in 2009 and went through rebranding and renaming of the company. Last year the business celebrated its 100 year anniversary.

Although the business has a variety of plants, right now between April through June their main focus is mums, 36 million cuttings in a three month time period. This year the quantity of mums has been increased.

With that said Keepsake Plants is looking to hire harvesters. Santos said they sell the cuttings, 26 cuttings per bag, which is sent off to the wholesaler.

“They will grow the mums out of the cuttings they receive and then sell to the stores,” she explained.

Other positions include field service workers. Santos said they are also looking for some maintenance positions who will be doing such things as roof work and general repairs of the green houses.

Although it is mostly seasonal work, Santos said at the end of the season if an employee is doing a good job and are producing very well there may be opportunities for them to stay on for the rest of the year.

Everyone is welcome to apply for the jobs, as the positions do not require a lot of experience. Santos said they are looking for employees who are dedicated and willing to work.

“We will conduct on-the-spot interviews and we will offer positions right on site,” she said.

The starting pay is $10 with overtime available after 48 hours. There are also sign on bonuses of up to $450, which is broken down over a 10-week period. Mum harvesters also are eligible for incentive pay due to their cuttings and work per hour. The last incentive is a referral bonus, $100 per person referred after they work four weeks.

“With this economy and how it is going, it is a job-seeker market. It’s a little difficult for us this year,” Santos said, adding they are trying to find more ways to be competitive.

The hours begin at 7 a.m. and she said employees are working through 6 p.m. right now.

“Right now we are up to 2.5 million cuttings per week. We are trying to get people in the door,” Santos said.

Saturday and Sunday work is available. She said employees have the potential to work a lot of hours and make a decent check.

This Thursday’s event will include haircuts, bus passes, job coaching and resources to give job seekers all the tools they need to be successful.

“It’s really a great career opportunity for everyone,” Rose said, adding that there are also trade skills opportunities, such as a plumbers and electricians.

Rose said although the job fairs have been really successful, the greatest challenge is getting the word out.

“We know right now, the aftermath of the pandemic, there is a lot of people who are unemployed and collecting unemployment checks. Employers are hiring right now and willing to take chances on people. It’s a great time to be looking for a job,” she said, adding that work makes a person better by giving an individual structure, dignity and purpose, all while being a role model for their children. “Some people are getting paid more to stay home right now. Work is so much more than working for a paycheck.”

Rose went on to say that once unemployment bonuses ends, there is going to be a rush to the market. She said now is really the best shot to get a job, as she believes there will be a lot more competition down the road to find good work.

For more information about Better Together, visit www.bettertogetherus.org, or call the 24-7 on-call phone service at 239-470-2733.