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Giving Back through CCC’s Community Volunteer CorpsTuesday, January 24, 2023
When people come to Central City Concern (CCC), finding and committing to employment can feel insurmountable, especially when coupled with early recovery or the challenge of finding stable housing. This is where Community Volunteer Corps, better known as CVC, comes in.
About Community Volunteer Corps
CVC is a volunteer program that provides individuals in CCC housing with the opportunity to build skills to ease their transition into the workforce. Participants build these skills by volunteering for non–profit organizations like Sunshine Division, Portland Parks & Recreation, Ronald McDonald House of Oregon and SW Washington and Free Geek. Volunteering gives participants an opportunity to build valuable “soft skills” that can be used on a resume while building self-confidence in a work environment. “Some people may not know if they’re ready to work or if they even want to work,” says CVC Program Manager Jon Wall. “It’s a very low barrier running start into employment and an opportunity to give back to their community.”
CVC participants must complete 80 hours of volunteering and commit to one five hour shift a week. Their shift is scheduled around their treatment, attending meetings, outpatient schedules, working with DHS and other obligations.
“We work with people from all walks of life,” says Jon. “We work with people that have had careers for 30 years and are coming through our services. Some people come to us after being homeless or houseless for many years. Some people have been incarcerated for 10, 20, 30 years. They have no idea what it looks like to reenter the workforce. It’s a really good opportunity for people to build their confidence to where they can get a job and keep a job.”
CVC brings people together to not only develop skills, but build community around recovery.
“I have people around me that are also working on the same things that I’m working on that help me build my confidence moving forward into my future,” says Haley, a CVC graduate currently working as a cargo contractor at Portland International Airport. Haley aspires to one day be a flight attendant. “We’re all trying to get our lives back on track and when we work together, we share that experience and we have fun.”
Program Manager Jon Wall was once one of these participants.
“In less than six years, I went from a CVC participant to a program supervisor,” says Jon. CVC leaders share their experience, strength and hope with participants. “My colleagues and myself are quick to tell people in orientation ‘hey, we’ve been through this program, we’ve graduated this program, we’ve gone through Central City Concern services. We understand where you’re at and all we want to do is help.’”
Jon’s CVC journey isn’t unusual: “I’ve seen people come in and participate in the CVC program. And now they are program managers within our company. There are people that are now certified nurses. There are people at companies that have careers that do all sorts of different, amazing things. This program is helping people find their passion.”
Once someone graduates from CVC, they can begin to work with an employment specialist from CCC’s Employment Access Center, who offers job coaching, skills training, resume and cover letter building and help with obtaining a job.
Graduating Community Volunteer Corps
CVC held its first graduation in three years on January 11, after a pause due to COVID-19. Over 20 graduates received certificates from Jon Wall and CVC Liaison Ralph “Koko” Ta’ase. Keynote speakers were Central City Concern CEO Andy Mendenhall and former Central City Concern CEO Ed Blackburn, who started CVC during his tenure.
“I want to thank you for the faith in each other, the faith you’ve also communicated back to our city and all the other nonprofit providers, all the good you’ve done,” said Ed Blackburn. “We need more people to see the good that not only you do, but others can do if given the correct opportunity, the right tools. Many good things can happen out of what seems to be intractable problems.”
CEO Andy Mendenhall told graduates: “CVC’s atmosphere is that of support, acceptance and empathy. In addition, you reflect that back to each other. That’s part of that teamwork. That’s part of the community that you create.”
Before turning the podium over to the graduates, Jon encouraged them to use their CVC experience as a springboard into their next endeavor.
Graduates each took a moment to share stories, anecdotes and appreciation. One participant stated “I noticed with my counselor, every Thursday, I seemed to have the best day. I was on top of the world. Why? Why is that? Because I was doing CVC that day.”
For many, CVC has created new opportunities. One graduate says, “When I was told I had to do CVC, I was like, ‘Okay, how am I getting out of this?’ But I stuck it out and I learned a lot from it. It’s opened a lot of doors for me. I just got a call this morning that I might be a case manager.
For many, this graduation was a mile marker of just how far they have come. One graduate reflected, “A year ago, I woke up cold in my car and today I get to say I’m living my dreams.”
Central City Concern is opening doors for people every day. Give the gift of hope by making a donation.