This time last year, a young woman in her 30s showed up at Micah’s respite house with a very poor prognosis. Doctors were not optimistic about her treatment and the likelihood of survival looked bleak. 

With time, a stable place to stay, support with medication and regular treatment regimen, however, she began to heal, seek housing and look for a purpose.

Initially, the woman found her place in the Community Cafe, a pay what you can restaurant Micah operated for two years from Fredericksburg Baptist’s Fellowship Hall. Slowly, we watched as a person who did not even believe she could cook transform into an impressive and capable employee at a local restaurant. 

Reflecting back on the last year, she notes how important it was to know someone was counting on her to show up in the cafe.  She broke free from the norms of a chaotic childhood, learning a “language other than scream, yell and cuss.” And she found her self worthy of being a mother to her children and capable of cooking a meal for them when they came to visit. 

This woman has continued to slow down the burden of making something out of her life into one day at a time. She recently regained her driver’s license, obtained partial custody of her daughter, increased her income and is working with the Micah team to discern the next chapter of a workforce program that meets the needs of others seeking to overcome homelessness. 

With her help, we have outlined a three-phased process where participants begin with a volunteer assignment in one of our existing ministries (I.e. hospitality, furniture bank, community meals, etc.). These participants will understand how meeting program expectations can earn them the opportunity to be placed with a community employer who could eventually hire them. With the monies available, will pay (at minimum wage) the salary of those placed with an employer for a term of approximately 30 days, at which time the employer can decide if they will hire the person. Staff, through a partnership with Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, will support the person through their volunteer placement, to community internship and even a period after employment.

The program, set to launch in November, is currently looking for employer partners who would be willing to have a trainee, paid by Micah, to work in their businesses for 30-60 days with the prospect offering a permanent job if it works out. We are also seeking sponsors whose contributions will cover the cost of bridging trainees from the volunteer phase to permanent employment. For about $1000, we estimate covering 30 days of trainee pay, transportation, phone minutes, start-up clothing and support costs. On August 20, Kiwanis of Fredericksburg, a civic organization committed to serving the community through various service and fundraising projects, made an inaugural contribution for this purpose. 

In addition to Kiwanis of Fredericksburg, this project has been made possible by The Honeywell Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, the Rappahannock United Way and a number of other private donors who have already stepped up to bridge homeless individuals into the workforce. Other program partners include Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, Rappahannock Adult Education and Germanna Community College.