As executive director, I am often asked about ECS’ focus. My answer after 18 months, and no doubt shaped by my 35 years in the for-profit world, is on the surface simple and straightforward. It can also be deeply complex and filled at times with conflicting interests and challenges.
Our focus is to confront poverty and isolation wherever we meet them. We believe that the way out of poverty is a job. That where employment is not possible due to age or disability, to provide stability. In addition, we look to give a voice to those in poverty and to stand as a leadership organization in this fight. ECS is not a safety net agency, but a lift up and out agency, focused on those who want and need the tools to move with certainty beyond poverty.
Behind our focus is a network of programs focused on select segments of those in the region living under or near the poverty line. They are all shaped by the voices of our participants, their hopes and their dreams.
We work with under-resourced youth in our Out of School Time Program and 14-to-23 year-olds in our Seeing Youth Succeed programs. We are also engaging our 18-to-23 year-olds with our new Employment Center to help them land full time, meaningful employment. At ECS St Barnabas Mission in West Philadelphia, we serve homeless women and children and provide much more than just shelter. Through our parenting workshops, we lay the groundwork for responsible parenting with individuals who may have grown up in chaotic households or just need help coping with the stress of raising children in a low-income household. Our Home Care programs bring stability and care to the elderly and our Dolphins of Delaware Valley volunteers visit the elderly in nursing home that do not have family. Finally, we work with our parish brothers and sisters to build capacity and skills to support common mission in the region and to build relationships with volunteers without whom could not make the impact we do.
While these missions change the lives of our program participants, ECS also has the obligation to work at a broader level give voice to the issues of poverty and call for collective accountability for this deep-seated issue. Our long-term aspiration is that each employer in the region commit to hiring a share of their workforce from the population currently living in poverty or at risk of poverty. If 10 percent of the jobs in the five counties of the Diocese of Pennsylvania were filled by individual in poverty looking to find meaningful work, the potential number is some 4,000 to 6,000 individuals per year.
Hiring from this population, especially first time job seekers, moves the needle on poverty long term. We see our job to work both sides of the equation. First, to find employers willing to share this vision and, second, to get the young individuals we work with ready with both the hard and soft skills necessary to be successful.
We focus on poverty, we focus on stability, and we give a voice to the issues. The way out of poverty is not a safety net, but a job. This is hard and complex work, but it is work we must do. To succeed, we need individuals who share our vision to work shoulder to shoulder with us.
Together we can give voice to the issue of poverty and together we can make a difference. Let me thank you in advance for your support. This is the common work we are all called to do. We are also obligated to give it a voice.
Silence is not an option.