Since September 2020, STRIVE Atlanta has been helping elevate a special group of people above a stormy cloud – that’s grown more turbulent in the coronavirus pandemic.
The cloud is joblessness. And STRIVE holds a proverbial boarding pass to fly beyond it.
STRIVE Atlanta is a nonprofit that provides workforce readiness training for underserved members of the Aerotropolis community, a collection of low- and moderate-income areas surrounding the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“We take a holistic approach at STRIVE. It’s not just encompassing their career goals, but what would employment look like for their lives, their family,” said An’Renae Watkins, a career coach at STRIVE. “We make sure they have an outline of what their goals are and take steps necessary to meet those goals. We help move them along, so it doesn’t seem like they are stuck in one place.”
STRIVE clients attend a seven-week program that helps determine their job interests and provide training for administrative support careers. But the needs don’t stop there. That’s where community partnerships come into play – like STRIVE’s connection to Regions Bank, where associates are raising their hands to help.
This spring Regions held a professional clothing drive where associates could drive up to branch locations in the Atlanta area to donate gently worn business suits and top and bottom separates to give Strive participants professional attire for job interviews.
“We had an awesome amount of participation. I think people really appreciated the opportunity to give back,” said Kyle Patterson, community relations officer and organizer for the drive. “I was thrilled to see that even in a pandemic, we were still able to find a way to keep this going.”
The clothes are intended not only to make applicants more comfortable and confident during interviews; they represent something more – their ability to pursue successful careers.
“Participants in job training programs need additional support and resources once they complete the programming, since many of them are underemployed or unemployed,” said Tiffany Kirk, community development officer for Regions. “Since this program focuses on administrative support careers, we felt that providing professional attire was an effort we could assist.”
The donations were a welcome arrival for STRIVE.
“Our participants come from all walks of life. We have some who are transitioning from homelessness, so they may not have access to professional clothing,” Watkins said. “When you go in for an interview, you want to feel like you dress the part. So having access to the clothes that were provided from the drive is such a great confidence booster for them.”
STRIVE’s latest cohort graduated in June. Watkins said many of the participants benefited from the clothing items donated by Regions associates. Regions volunteers have also provided financial education on money habits, and some associates are considering becoming mentors to Strive participants. Their engagement and willingness to come beside others on the way toward career destinations is applauded.
“A lot of times we live in a community, but we really haven’t connected,” Watkins said. “Pursuing these opportunities to serve not only benefits Strive participants but can enrich the lives of volunteers as well.”