By Joel Hall
Thanks to money from the nation's economic stimulus package, Hearts to Nourish Hope has the funding to supply businesses in Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties with hundreds of summer interns. The non-profit is seeking businesses to take on 500 interns this year, and an additional 95 interns with disabilities, who will be able to work at no cost to the companies.
Deborah Anglin, executive director of Hearts to Nourish Hope, said the organization, which is dedicated to steering youth toward education and, ultimately, careers, has been operating its Summer Jobs Program for the past six years. She said the number of Southern Crescent youths able to participate in the program annually is 70, but that the stimulus package has raised that number considerably.
"This is an outstanding opportunity for Hearts to Nourish Hope and all of these businesses in the community," Anglin said. "It gives us a chance to broaden our partnerships with all of these businesses that want to help youth, but they are having a hard time because their budgets are being constrained. This is bringing the kids and businesses together, where it is not a strain, but actually a help.
"For Clayton, Fayette, and Henry counties, it's going to pull the community together," she added.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Hearts to Nourish Hope will host two informational meetings for businesses interested in hiring interns through the program. The April 29 meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m., at Hearts to Nourish Hope, located at 345 Scott Road in Riverdale. The April 30 meeting will take place at 9 a.m., at the office of Vibha Singla CPA, located at 671 Forest Parkway in Forest Park.
Anglin said the interns will range in age from 14 to 24, and will be paid from $7.25 to $12 per hour, depending on their age, experience, and the business they work for. Businesses will take on no expense, as the program will pay the wages, taxes, and worker's compensation costs for all program participants.
Rick Phelps, director of development for WORKTEC, an organization in Jonesboro dedicated to finding gainful employment for the disabled, will use the stimulus money to assign 95 young, disabled people to internships through the Summer Jobs Program. He said he believes the program will create new opportunities for the disabled who, he said, are disproportionately impacted by the current state of the economy.
"Unemployment for people with disabilities is about double what it is for people without disabilities in our area," Phelps said. "In rough times, companies tend to trim payroll and limit their hiring. We are hoping that this will open doors for individuals to secure long-term employment, which would relate to WORKTEC's mission."
Anglin said she believes businesses will benefit from the free labor provided through the program, while students will get enriching career experience. She said the program may also decrease the summer crime rate and boost the local economy.
"If there is nothing for kids to do over the summer, they are going to get in trouble," Anglin said. "It's going to cut down on the crime rate. It's going to help because the kids can actually gain money for their families to pay for clothes and school supplies. As a whole, that is going to create a lot more spending. If mom knows that Johnny's school supplies are taken care of, she can use that money on something that she wouldn't have before."
Businesses and young people interested in the Summer Jobs Program should call (404) 375-5341 or (770) 870-9784. Disabled applicants can also contact Phelps at (770) 241-0191.