Rubicon, 9 Local Organizations Join Forces to End Unemployment in Contra Costa County

By Jonathan Bash August 14, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Countywide Collaborative Will Expand Access and Quality of Resources for Those in Need of a Job or Career Change

MARTINEZ, CALIF., AUGUST 14, 2018 … Even though the Bay Area job market may feel red-hot, nearly 20,000 Contra Costa residents remain unemployed and are looking for work. To help these individuals find a job or start a new career, ten organizations have partnered with Contra Costa County and its Workforce Development Board (WDBCCC) to create an unprecedented network of service providers.

“The Contra Costa Workforce Collaborative is the first effort of its kind in California,” said Bhupen Amin, Chair of the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County. “We’re pooling all of our resources so that unemployed Contra Costans can quickly find a good job or start a new career. Now, it will be easier than ever to access the technical resources, coaching and training necessary to thrive in this evolving job market.”

The effort, called the Contra Costa Workforce Collaborative (CCWC), will help reduce the unemployment rate and put people on a path to prosperity by bringing disparate services together and locating job search resources closer to those who need them.

The CCWC will be coordinated by Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that works to end poverty in the East Bay, as well as the following CBOs and educational institutions:

These local organizations came together because they have a shared mission, a strong track record of collaborative work, and a desire to provide high impact services to underserved populations.  Each brings a long history of providing high-quality employment and training services, strong connections to the county’s industry sectors and a deep understanding of the unique employer and job-seeker needs in each region of the county.

“Before this collaborative, individuals looking for a job would often have to travel across the county to access services,” says Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs, the CCWC’s lead agency. “Now, each of our organizations will offer these resources on-site and within the community, leveraging each of our strengths to bring more to the table.”

The CCWC will offer intensive support services at an America's Job Center of California (AJCC) in Concord that will be managed by Rubicon Programs, while each of the other nine organizations will offer satellite services and specialized resources in offices located from San Pablo to Brentwood. Participants will be able to access one-on-one counseling, computers and printers, job boards and workshops that will give them a boost in their job search.

“We’re excited to be part of this incredible effort to expand access to these lifeline services,” said Vittoria Abbate, Director of College & Career and Adult Education at Mt. Diablo Unified School District, a founding member of the new collaborative. “We believe that we can accomplish more together and that we’ll be able to make it easier for vulnerable families to get back on their feet, avoiding a fall into long-term, intergenerational poverty.”

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors officially approved funding for this new project on August 14, 2018. Each of the ten members of the Contra Costa Workforce Collaborative now offer their new services to unemployed Contra Costa County residents.

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Rubicon Programs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. The organization serves the people of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and provides services that help low-income individuals enter the workforce and develop fulfilling lives.

CONTACT: Jonathan Bash  |  jonathanb@rubiconprograms.org  |  (925) 335-6784

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The Rubicon Rangers: Shipment Shakeup

By Jessica Tu August 13, 2018

Piles of clothes take up most of the space in the small closet, even after a full day of work.

The "Rubicon Rangers" series is a first-person account of Rubicon's intern experience, authored by the interns, Jessica, Sandy and Justin, themselves.

The brisk air welcomed my face outside. The sky was overcast, and the temperature was lower than I had anticipated. 

"Hopefully it'll warm up. It's only just the morning," I said to Sandy, who had remarked on the gloomy weather.

Luckily, we were not outside for long. The brief walk from the Bissell Office to 101 Broadway led us to warm greetings from Rubicon's mentors in the lobby.  

We continued past them, where we spotted participants attending workshops and impact coaches working with people.  

Finally, we turned the corner and saw the comedic posters that decorate Delia's door.  

Over the past five weeks, the Rubicon Rangers have grown comfortable in our quarters. Familiar faces invite us in and make us feel at home. Delia, the point person and mother of the closet, is one of the people to whom we have grown closest.  

She turned to us and smiled, acknowledging us, asking questions, and taking interest in our lives. 

After a few moments, she handed me the keys to the closet and looked me in the eyes. She announced, "the new shipment came in on Tuesday. I went to see it, and it is big."  

We were soon learned that big was an understatement. 

In true Rubiconian fashion, the beautiful mess of clothes within welcomed us. Two previously empty racks were now filled with suits.  We turned slightly to the right to see the clothes that did not make it to the rack. Bright blue plastic wrapped bundles of suits, pants, and various blazers. Two piles of clothes sprawled across the open floor. A few button-down shirts, also wrapped in plastic, peeked through. Behind the blue mounds were three stacks of boxes. 

Unsure where to start, I looked around until spotting two shopping bags filled with shoes. Justin, Sandy and I started by organizing our smaller more manageable donation of shoes.

As I grabbed one shoe and found its matching pair, I began to organize the stock by size.  

At Wardrobe for Opportunity, we learned to mark sizes on round office labels and to stick the seal on the back of the shoe. Most shoes have the size marked within the build, whether on the tongue, the sole, or the side.  

As I got into the tedious task of sizing shoes, Sandy worked on the rest of the room.  

Later, I turned around to see one of the racks formerly occupied by suits had been transformed. Now, it solely carried collared shirts. Our stock of men's button-downs went from 15 pieces to a full rack. 

As the day went on, we discovered more hidden treasures. We uncovered bags of ties under one pile, and unboxed packages of womenswear, including bunches of light and silky scarves, under another one.

The generous extravagance of a donation of designer suits and professional attire delighted us. We were excited to be able to supply Rubicon's participants with such beautiful clothes.  

We faced one big issue though: we did not have enough racks for the clothes, and we were anticipating two more shipments, one on August 7th, and another on August 14th.  

For weeks, we had been longing for a larger supply. Giving up slightly outdated items seemed wasteful when the closet was meager. But now, we had the opposite problem.

The new shipment was bittersweet, as we realized the limitations of our project, both temporal and spatial. We have only so much time and so much space to store all of these great things.

By the end of the day, we made visible progress: only one pile and a few boxes remained. The rest of the suits, pants, and blazers had been sorted. All the shoes were organized, and we were able to re-sort shirts and all the women's apparel.  

Yet the newfound uncertainty in our project plan remained. If we cannot find another space, the proposed fitting room may devolve into a storage room as donations stack up.  

The shipment may have disrupted our original, smaller plan, but we are still happy to welcome these valuable clothes into our closet.

The rangers will just have to figure out how to make do in the coming weeks.

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The Rubicon Rangers: Dressing for Success with Rubicon’s Interns

By Jessica Tu July 2, 2018

The "Rubicon Rangers" series is a first-person account of Rubicon's intern experience, authored by the interns, Jessica, Sandy and Justin, themselves.

A hole barely wider than a pencil left a fray of pocket lining visible. The bright white of the thread stood out from the trousers’ tan plaid. 

"So, should we just give it away?" I asked. 

Justin, a fellow Rubicon Programs intern, muttered, "I guess."

Sandy, another intern, turned back to tagging the suit hanging on the clothing rack. I reluctantly placed the full suit in a white plastic trash bag. 

"What a shame," I sighed, shaking my head.  

Wardrobe for Opportunity – a nonprofit organization that helps connect people in poverty with much-needed clothing – has a sorting system that specifies that patterned blazers must be given away to another charity if its matching trousers are damaged, even if the coat is in perfect condition. The policy ensures that their clients always look professional, ready for their next job interview. 

The next part of the process is sizing procedure. It’s a mechanical process. First, look for a label. Then, fold and measure. Finally, hang up the item and tag it. As we got into the routine of sizing, we considered the materials we used and the demands of our participants. 

Justin, Sandy and I are working together to develop Rubicon's own clothing closet, which will offer program participants access to a large wardrobe of interview and work attire. Understandably, feeling comfortable in the fit, style and professionalism of one's clothing is integral to the confidence necessary to thrive in the world of work.

At the end of Wardrobe for Opportunity’s training workshop, which they kindly allowed us to participate in, we looked back at the two racks of tagged suits and sport coats and gleaned a vision for our project.  

We hope to create a boutique-style “shop” with a personal fitting room. The goal is to minimize the stress and cost of finding appropriate clothing. 

Justin, a senior in high school, is excited to see the final product late this summer. "I hope that our clothing closet will have a comforting and inviting atmosphere. Rubicon’s participants should feel welcome to use it anytime." 

So far, Rubicon only has a small closet with a few racks and a couple of bags of clothes. Our biggest challenge is to sort through it all and determine what is work-appropriate, and what should be given away. 

The training exercise at Wardrobe for Opportunity not only provided us with a helpful framework, but also raised questions about our closet’s design.

The closet is disorganized and lacks options, according to Sandy, who’s also in high school. But she’s optimistic. “We can use the skills we learned at Wardrobe for Opportunity and apply it to our work at Rubicon," she said.  

As interns new to the workforce, taking on such a large project was both intimidating and exciting.  

Gratefully, Rubicon Programs has given the interns a warm welcome to the nonprofit field. Justin described their team as friendly and warm. “It's inspiring to see people so dedicated to what they do, and what their organization does," he said. 

As an intern, there is so much to look forward to learning and doing. Sandy, in particular, is excited to attend her first “Stepping Stones Ceremony,” the monthly event culminating Rubicon’s participants’ completion of the program’s “Foundations Workshop.”

“I want to see and hear participants’ stories and how Rubicon has impacted their life," she said. 

​In the meantime, we are all working hard to complete the closet in less than two months. In July, Wardrobe for Opportunity will connect us with Men's Warehouse, who has pledged a shipment of suits, helping get us one step closer.

Our newly acquired knowledge about sizing and tagging clothes, combined with our new sorting guidelines, has set us up for success.

Our entire intern team can’t wait to see the clothing closet in action, helping people break poverty one interview at a time.

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#TogetherWeRise

By Jonathan Bash October 27, 2017


Rubicon Programs transforms East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. 

We believe that no one service is enough to end intergenerational poverty. People are complicated. They can't be reduced to the least common denominator. 

That's why we provide our participants with three years of coaching and opportunities across four core service areas: income, assets, wellness and connections.
 
First, we help our participants get a job and map a long-term career plan. Then, we show them how to grow their savings, build their credit, set a budget and overcome legal barriers. 
 
But we don't stop with these simple economic solutions. 

Physical and emotional health issues, and limited social networks, also keep people in poverty. That's why we offer tailored wellness services and assistance establishing the community networks necessary to build a career, raise a family, and make positive change.

This holistic, flexible approach allows us to end poverty permanently for more than 1,700 people each year. And we all benefit.

Help us build an East Bay without poverty.

Click here to support others like Mario, Angela and John:

"Thanks to Rubicon, I’ve overcome some serious obstacles. All the workshops – and all the coaches – challenged me and helped me grow, allowing me to use my community connections to get a good job." - Mario

"To look at where I am now is a delightful feeling. I was running from my credit for so long, but now I just want to see it grow." - Angela

"I had headaches and didn’t know why. Now, thanks to Rubicon, I know it's hypertension and I’m able to make it better. Rubicon connected me with everything I needed." - John

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Sometimes You Get What You Need: Drummond’s Story

By Jonathan Bash September 1, 2017

Sometimes, you endeavor to accomplish one small goal, and it snowballs into a life-changing event. As the Rolling Stones once said, “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.” 

In Drummond’s case, he – a Rubicon participant from the first cohort under our new model – got both.  Just one year ago, someone told him that Rubicon could reinstate his suspended license, and help him get his life in order, find a job and build a career.

“But all I heard was that I could get my license. I needed my license back, so I went to Rubicon,” he says. “At first, I sat in the Foundations Workshop with my ears shut, just waiting for the coaches to show me how to fix my situation. But then something amazing happened. I truly listened for the first time in my life. The coaches got to me. And, man, talk about a transformation!”

Before Rubicon, Drummond didn’t really care about the world around him. “I had a lot of street in me, and a lot of the potholes that come with it. I always had to pull to the side to change tires.” One detour resulted in 5 years of incarceration. “It felt like I was roaming with hyenas.”

Things changed. “After a few days with Rubicon, I was striving to be on time every day. I was engaged, asking questions.” He says, “Rubicon’s coaches are like your ol’ grandma. She’ll give you all the love you could want, but if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, she’s not going to defend you. You want your grandma to fight for you, so you do what you’re supposed to do.”

Soon enough, Rubicon brought him on to their team as an ambassador, a transitional employment position for people interested in bolstering their job skills and pursuing careers in social service. “I became Mr. Rubicon – the first point of contact for new participants.”

“That was the first time anybody trusted me with that sort of responsibility. That’s empowerment.” Drummond soon leveraged this new confidence – and job experience – to get a position as a counselor at a shelter for families experiencing homelessness. “I became a caregiver.”

Long term, he wants to continue to give back and care for those who need help. It’s something he learned from his coaches. “When I come through Rubicon’s doors, I get hugs. I get a family. I get encouragement. They do something for people. I want to do something. Paying taxes isn’t enough.”

Drummond is a man who is fueled by hope and, as a result, can’t help but glow with pride. He overflows with enthusiasm for life and for what he now knows is possible when people come together to support each other.

“Society can’t keep putting all of these band aids on all of these minor problems.” Drummond thinks there’s a better approach to solving poverty than what conventional wisdom has prescribed over the last fifty years.

“What you need is a big bandage to cover up the whole cut and lets it heal. Rubicon heals. It brings you back together. It breaks the cycle of poverty. I just don’t understand why Rubicon isn’t everywhere! What they do works.” 

Help us continue to break poverty by donating today.

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