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Chamber gets update on Community Recovery Program
Initiative aims to overcome barriers to employment

Friday, December 13, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Piedmont Community Services’ Community Recovery Program (CRP) is seeking the help of local employers to get lives back on track.

Lisa Smith, CRP program manager, spoke to the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday about how the program strives to connect employers to job applicants who face barriers to employment and are looking to move forward.

Smith said CRP works with applicants who have been released from jail, faced difficulties with drugs or alcohol in the past, are disabled or face other barriers to employment and who now want to become less reliant on government assistance and contribute to the local economy.

“We’ve got a young man who just got out of prison two weeks ago,” Smith said, “and he is at our office every day. He rides a bike; he’s there to do job searches. He’s asking us to take him to the workforce center. He’s asking us to show him how to do research and look on the computer to find jobs. That’s somebody I would love to have as an employee if he’s that dedicated just looking for the job.”

Roughly 90 people have been through the program, which began last year, Smith said. About 45 people are active in the program, and about 28 of those are employed part time or full time.

“We really promote the program with Patrick Henry Community College through Workforce Development,” Smith said. “We understand that some of our folks have been incarcerated three, four, five, 10 years, and they need to be retrained on how to do some things.”

CRP will hold a program called “Beyond Barriers II: Improving Your Bottom Line” Feb. 13 at Patrick Henry Community College’s Frith Exhibit Hall. The first Beyond Barriers program was last January.

The program will discuss reasons and incentives for employers to consider hiring people with barriers to employment. The keynote speakers will be Howard Green, deputy director for corporate programs at the National Organization on Disability, and Kia Parson, Virginia bonding program coordinator at the Virginia Department of Corrections.

For more information on the program, call the Community Recovery Program at 638-0438.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board:

• Heard an update on the Fast Track 2014 trade show from chamber President Amanda Witt. The chamber has sold out sponsorship row at the trade show, Witt said, as well as the corporate and VIP sponsorship slots.

The trade show is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. March 4-5 at Commonwealth Centre, the former Tultex factory off Commonwealth Boulevard near Liberty Fair Mall. The trade show will not be in the Clock Tower Building where it has been in years past; instead, it will be in another large building behind that structure.

March 4 is an invitation-only VIP night for exhibitors to network. The show will be open to the public on March 5.

• Recognized the departing vice chair of organizational improvement, Grady W. “Skip” Philips III of Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. Chamber board Chairman Joe Keiper presented Philips with a plaque and described him as “an outstanding leader in the community.”

• Learned about the chamber’s Annual Meeting and Leadership Recognition Dinner at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at Chatmoss Country Club. Witt said 13 table sponsors and about 180 guests have signed up so far. To RSVP, call 632-6401.

• Learned that the targeted recruitment job fair Dec. 4 at the Dutch Inn was well received by the corporations and job-seekers in attendance. About 150 people took part, Witt said.

“A lot of folks liked the smaller, more intimate targeted recruitment event,” she said, “so we may look to do some more sector-based job fairs in the future.”

• Approved two items on the 2014 legislative agenda.

The first item, for the 2014 federal legislative agenda, states that while the chamber will work with local, state and congressional officers on a number of different public policies, the chamber’s membership believes that the issues most important to them for the coming year’s state and federal agendas are workforce development and health care.

The second item, for the 2014 state legislative agenda, establishes that the chamber’s main legislative activities for the coming year are workforce development, transportation and health care.

• Learned that three new members have joined the chamber: America’s Youth Educational Fund, Magic Mirror School of Cosmetology and The Hot Dog Wagon. The chamber has not had any members drop recently, Witt said, and currently it is at 633 total members.


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