CCT: Kristi Nichols, your job at the Fresno Rescue Mission is to work with employment development, and we understand that the FRM is launching two new efforts in this area. Tell us first about New Creation Cleaning. What is it, how does it work, and why is it important?
KN: New Creation Cleaning is a new janitorial and vinyl floor care business. The Mission started this for-profit business for the purpose of creating permanent employment and job skill training. It is a small business, run by Mission graduates, which we can afford to grow slowly and successfully because it receives oversight from the Mission. By starting New Creations Cleaning, and other small businesses, we are applying entrepreneurialism to grow the financial sustainability of individual families, providing a more wholistic solution. And, we are creating more entrances into the work force for those who are often blocked from employment due to their past offenses.
CCT: And you are launching a “Start-Your-Own-Business” class for some of your current residents. Give us some details — the whats and hows and whys. What are your hopes for this new effort?
KN: Greg Amos, Director of Father to the Fatherless Ministries, is using his experience in business to create and teach this class for the Mission community. Greg will make accessible the knowledge and training for men (and later women) to lay the foundation of their own businesses to be self-employed. In addition to instruction and resources, we want to offer mentoring from people experienced in running a business. The class will be skill focused, but we also hope to expand the participant’s perspectives of their options for their future, as well as contribute to the growth of social enterprises.
CCT: What are some of the specific challenges faced by those with significant barriers to employment in Fresno, and how might these efforts help?
KN: Despite incredible change, when it comes to employment a person’s past (i.e. criminal record, sporadic work history, etc.) may be held against him. Knowledge of that bias against him makes it especially daunting to face the challenges of finding a job with confidence. Small businesses like New Creations Cleaning look at an applicant’s qualifications and growth of character, not their past. In addition to an income, there are opportunities for developing more skills and work experience, in order to move into greater job potential. The same applies for those possessing the skill sets to be self-employed.
CCT: From where in the scriptures do you take your biblical inspiration for these efforts?
KN: Throughout the Gospels we learn that Jesus sought out and empowered those who were outside of “acceptable society”, including those who were on the outside because of their sin. Even while dying, Jesus showed mercy to the criminal (Luke 23:42-43). In James 2 we are instructed to not show partiality by accepting one person over another because of their position in society. Starting in verse eight we read, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself…But if you show partiality, you are committing sin…So speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty…Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (ESV)
CCT: Are these things the church at large in Fresno can participate in? How?
KN: We can change our mindsets and practices that continue to alienate and marginalize our brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly from employment, because of their past. We can apply our innovative and entrepreneurial skills and resources to equip people and create access to jobs, with the long-term objective of people moving into lifestyles of contributing to our communities. We can learn how the Church in other communities is creating solutions to the issue of unemployment, and collaborate for solutions in our own city.
CCT: Why would it be important for the church at large to become a resource for employment development?
KN: Employment development is a key issue in our city, but it is usually defined as “secular” work, not something for the Church. Yet the magnitude of Fresno’s problem requires that God lead us to innovative solutions. The Spirit is inspiring the Church throughout the world to show, even for issues of employment, that He is, and has, the answer. Addressing the issue of employment is yet another way to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, and this service becomes a connection and an invitation to the transforming love of Christ. In turn, this transformation has a ripple effect renewing individuals, to renewing families, and to renewing communities.