Kathy, a Queens mom, needed a path forward after losing her job during the Covid crisis. She found employment support at the Queens Hub, an initiative of UJA that provides human services all under one roof so people can move from crisis to stability. The Hub, located near one of the densest areas of Jewish poverty, provides employment counseling and job training through our partner, Commonpoint Queens. People can also receive other services at the Hub, including financial and legal counseling, access to interest-free loans, and food at the digital food pantry. In heartwarming news, 92 people have found jobs since the Queens Hub opened its doors in October 2020.
Kathy shared her story with us (edited for clarity).
It’s funny how things work out. For me, a sign on a building literally became a sign of better things to come for me and my family during the Covid crisis.
Like so many parents home with kids, getting out for walks gave me and my three kids some fresh air. And helped clear my mind. I had just received my associate degree and was three months into a new job as a dispatcher at LaGuardia Airport, excited to be in the workforce after staying at home eight years to raise my children. Then Covid started. I got furloughed. My husband, who worked in a restaurant, lost his job. My kids’ schools closed. They got stressed. Covid’s taken away their whole routine. After all these months, we were getting by with my family helping when they could. So walks would do us some good. At least for a short while.
Over the months of the crisis, we walked past a bowling alley in our neighborhood that had a For Sale sign planted on it for a long time. Then one day the sign was gone and construction had started. I wondered what they were building and figured probably more apartments. Sometime later a new sign cropped up: Commonpoint Queens: The Hub.
I went home and Googled it.
What I saw looked amazing, with lots of programs offered. Maybe they could help me find a job.
I called and met with an employment counselor, Ahuva, who’s the greatest. She helped with my resume. Did mock interviews. It was like a blessing.
Ahuva called me one morning at home. “I have an excellent opportunity. I want you to interview for a community ambassador position with Test and Trace,” she said.
It was on one of those mornings that I felt down. “Why would anyone want to hire me?” I asked.
Ahuva was not fazed. “Just do the interview and see what happens,” she said.
I did and three days later, yes, I got hired.
I started in December. I work full time in Queens. I go out in communities with the highest number of Covid cases and talk to people walking by.
On Tuesdays, we collaborate with other organizations and encourage community members to get tested. We call this a “Day of Action.” On other days, we hold pop-up events at different locations, including food pantries and houses of worship. I’m part of a team that educates people on how to prevent Covid infections. We distribute free masks and information on where to go to get a free Covid test. If someone tests positive, we provide information on free resources available to the community, like staying in a hotel at no charge. Now that it’s getting colder, we’re setting up our pop-up events inside stores.
I always wanted to help people. This isn’t just a job. I see people’s faces when we meet and how appreciative they are to receive a mask they can’t afford. Doing this work is rewarding because I’m doing something for the community. People are really hurting and need assistance.
I’m grateful to help even one person to do the right thing in this difficult time. “Don’t give up hope,” I say. “We’re here for each other. We’re here to help each other.”
The Hub made a difference for me, and now I can make a difference for other people. It pays to read the signs.