Constructing lives

Constructing lives

The magnificent sounds of hammers, saws and drills are filling the air at Cunningham Children’s Home! You’re probably wondering, what is glorious about the sounds of construction? Let us tell you!

Renovations are being done in what will be the new Cup of Hope coffee shop location on our Urbana campus. When completed, Cup of Hope will offer staff a place to gather and enjoy a cup of coffee together with café seating for 12, plus an outdoor patio seating area. More importantly, Cunningham youth will gain valuable workplace experience to prepare them for future employment and ultimately financial security.

Austin* is excited about the changes too. Through Cunningham’s Vocational Options program, he has worked at a local Food Pantry and at Cup of Hope. Austin is a good worker. He follows directions and is a team player. And he loves having a job.

"Going to work is the best part of my week!" Austin said.

His work experience, however, has been hampered by infractions at school which has prevented him from being able to continue working. Having learned firsthand how actions have consequences that will impact your employment and financial security, the question for Austin became, "can you be responsible in your everyday life so you can be dependable in your work life?"

In February, students wanting to work at Cup of Hope completed a job application, put together a resumé and had an in-person interview. Through these first steps, they are able to learn the importance of preparing for an interview, proper dress and hygiene, one-on-one interaction with others and employment expectations.

Austin was not optimistic he would get another opportunity, but he was encouraged to not let his past determine his future. On interview day, Austin came prepared and ready to prove himself. He made sure his face was clean, his hair was combed and wore his best pants and button-down shirt. He had his resumé ready and application complete and had a prepared list of questions to ask during the interview.

Because of limited positions, not everyone was hired to work at Cup of Hope, but that is part of the learning process. Those who were not chosen had an invaluable debrief with Vocational Options staff to understand why they were not hired and to learn and grow from the experience.

Those who were hired received a Letter of Employment outlining the expectations of the job from work ethics, dependability, appropriate dress, on the job training, a pay schedule and grounds for termination. Once on the job, they will learn about customer service, inventory management, machine operations and cleanliness, operating a Point of Sale system, inventory management and positive work habits like being on time, being presentable and being a cheerful representative of Cup of Hope.

Austin still wants to be part of the Cup of Hope team again, but it won’t be right now because the Food Pantry rehired him.

"They were so happy to see me," Austin said, following his first day back. "They wondered where I had been, and I told them I had made some poor choices that meant I couldn’t work for a while. But I won’t make that mistake again. Work is the most positive place I go."

In some ways, Cup of Hope will continue to be a "construction area" long after the renovations are done; a construction area for life where youth can learn life skills, build valuable work habits and gain customer service experience.

*story is real but name has been changed to protect privacy of our youth.