Churches host job fairs to help the formerly incarcerated get their 'second chance'

Participants take part in a Better Together job fair. Better Together partners with churches for its Nationwide Day of Second Chances, inviting job seekers to a series of job fairs to make finding jobs easier.
Participants take part in a Better Together job fair. Better Together partners with churches for its Nationwide Day of Second Chances, inviting job seekers to a series of job fairs to make finding jobs easier. | Courtesy Emily Golden/Better Together

Several churches in two states and the nation's capital are hosting job fairs this week as part of a Nationwide Day of Second Chances partnership with a nonprofit that seeks to support families with barriers and obstacles to unemployment. 

As April is Second Chance Month, the nonprofit Better Together is hosting the fourth annual Nationwide Day of Second Chances this week.

On Tuesday and Thursday, the campaign will lead coordinated job fairs at churches, bringing together job seekers and hiring managers for potential employers. The website lists over a dozen events in Florida, Kentucky and Washington, D.C., promoting the "power of second chances for neighbors facing barriers to employment."

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Barriers to unemployment can include but are not limited to criminal convictions, incarceration, homelessness, lack of transportation or child care, or gaps on a resume due to unemployment. 

"Churches are the solution to our messy social problems that a lot of people have written off as unsolvable. I saw that firsthand when I was growing up, the power of the local church, coming alongside my family in crisis," Better Together CEO Megan Rose told The Christian Post. "And because of their love and support our family was able to navigate a difficult situation and come out of it stronger."

Rose believes the Church "should be standing in the gap and caring for vulnerable children and families."

"Better Together's mission is really to come alongside the Church and empower the local Church to stand in the gap for our families in a really meaningful and loving way," she said. 

Thousands of people are released from prison every year in the United States. Many former inmates find it challenging to land job opportunities in a variety of career fields after their incarceration. 

"We know the importance of employment and the important role a job plays in helping people to be able to heal and move forward and have a fresh start. We started our Nationwide Day of Second Chances where we partner with churches all across the country to host a joyful, second chance job fair that focuses on people's future instead of our past," Rose said. 

"We believe that the Church is the best place for someone to find a job. It's not just a handout for the unemployed. It's also a tangible way for the Church to stretch out, share the Gospel and build meaningful relationships with the people walking through the doors." 

Rose said it's vital to give people facing unemployment "the opportunity to be loved on and cared for and to have meaningful opportunities to find work."

"When I think about what Better Together is doing through its mission, I think of the scriptures 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Timothy 5:8," she explained. "If we take seriously the Bible's injunction that if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat, or if a person doesn't provide for his household, he's denied the faith, then employment ought to be just higher up in the list of ministry responsibilities for people in the local Church."

She asserts the Church is "uniquely positioned in handing out hope."

"This initiative is really about moving upstream and helping families that are just struggling with living in poverty. Their household incomes are low, they're struggling to stay together, or they have been rejected and are having difficulty finding a job," Rose said. 

"We want the Church to be a place of hope. The local Church should be a place where people can come and see the Gospel in action and the love and care that the church has for their neighbors that are struggling."

"It can be incredibly difficult for anybody who has any sort of barriers to employment like a criminal record," she continued. "Most of the time because of algorithms, they are doing the right things. They're checking off that box that says they have a criminal record. Because of that, a lot of job seekers won't be able to get in front of a hiring manager," Rose said. 

"We really humanize the job seeking process. We make it much easier for people to come to a job fair and many hiring managers to hire on the spot. But, we also provide an environment where job seekers can come to be encouraged and where they can be guided on how they can get help connecting with a local Church and community. We also help with providing access to various resources." 

Rose said data suggests that the recidivism rate is much higher for former inmates released from prison who are unable to find employment after being released.

"I believe that the local Church can actually end recidivism by connecting with their neighbors and helping them find employment, but also continuing to build meaningful relationships with their community by showing them the Gospel and being the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbors in need while helping them look for work," she said. 

Better Together partners with the local Church to identify different resources needed by job seekers, returning citizens or anybody in the community looking for a second chance or a fresh start. 

"We partner with churches to provide community resources such as: clothing, backpacks and some of our locations even had the ability to get job seekers photo IDs. We have partners that help alleviate some of the financial burdens for those that are returning citizens that are struggling to pay off their fees," Rose said.  

"We provide community resources, care for children, financial coaching; think of our initiative as a one-stop-shop. People get to come as they are. They're greeted with a smile at the door by a loving volunteer and then they can connect with different resources. They get their confidence built up," she continued. 

"They can get to connect with a volunteer job coach and volunteer coaches from local churches and they're spending time with them building up their resume and building up their confidence. They can get help with their resume, prayers for them, and we will encourage them and then introduce them to employers."

Florida churches participating in the campaign include Gardenview Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Breadbreakers Church in Belleview, Grace Church in Fort Myers, Living Hope Church in Largo, Rise Christian Church in Lehigh Acres, Miami Vineyard Community Church in Miami, First Port St. Lucie Seventh-day Adventist Church and Northwest Church of Christ in St. Petersburg, 

In Kentucky, events will be held at Bluegrass Community Church in Lexington. Anacostia River Church will host a job fair in Washington.

More information on Nationwide Day of Second Chances can be found here

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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