Bill Wagner / The Daily News
From right to left, T.J. Melrose, Cody Machin and Brandon Claxton (on ladder) learn how to replace cedar siding on a Kelso home under the supervision of Kevin Hale. The teenage boys are part of a federal program administered by Goodwill to help disadvantaged youth finish school and gain job skills.
Terrence "T.J." Melrose, 18, was
ostracized by high school classmates who
taunted him for taking freshman classes as a
Derek Kribs, 19, wasted his days drinking with his buddies —
until last Halloween, when he nearly died from alcohol poisoning and
woke up in the hospital.
Cody Machin, 17, was "just putting in time"
in an alternative school, feeling that nobody
cared whether he succeeded or failed.
All ran afoul of the law.
Today all three teenagers say they finally
see a bright future for themselves, thanks to
the Workforce Investment Act's Youth Program, a
federal grant-funded program that provides
educational opportunities, apprenticeships and
job skills training to disadvantaged youth. The
federal budget proposal passed by the U.S. House
will cut WIA funding as of July 1, but Ron
Blasco of Goodwill, who oversees the program,
said he hopes it will be renewed.
Nineteen students are in different stages of
the program administered by the Southwest
Washington Workforce Development Council, WIA
program aide Vashti Langford said during an
interview with participants earlier this month
in the Goodwill's office annex adjacent to the
Longview retail store, where classes are held.
"Some are employed, some are registered for
Lower Columbia College, some are studying for
their GED," she said. "Some are progressing with
their job skills, and we're assisting them with
looking for employment."
The program is open to low-income 17- to
21-year-olds in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties
who don't have a high school diploma or GED and
have "some kind of legal issue," said WIA
program aide Merilee Hertig.
"I tell them they've come to the fork in the
road," said Jerry Hastings, the program's job
developer. "If you go left, you continue with
the criminal behavior and get into worse
trouble. But if you make a right turn, you get
your GED and turn your life around."
"We all came through different walks of life," Melrose said. "We
don't know each other's stories. The only common thing is we all
"I was going to LCC before I came to this program, but I dropped
out," said Longview resident Marissa Gonzales, 18, who is studying
nursing. "Youth and Family LINK brought me here, and I met Vashti.
Now I love this program. I wish every kid who needs an education
could come here and get help."
For Melrose, help came after he turned 18 and "aged out" of
foster care. He moved in with an adult friend in Longview who told
him about the program, which opened July 1.
Melrose's problems completing school had nothing to do with
intelligence. He moved to so many foster families, and so many
schools, while growing up that he missed a lot of the basics. When
he realized in his freshman year that he might not graduate, he said
he tried to catch up but "I had no one to help me out, to say you
needed to learn this, this and this."
In the WIA program he met Hertig, a former public schoolteacher.
Like all the aides, she works with each student individually.
"We try to respect their learning styles," she said. "They may be
all studying multiplication but they'll do in different ways."
"That's what great about the program," Blasco said. "We have the
expertise of Merilee to be able to join together with the student to
maximize the learning potential."
"I don't know where I'd be without this program," Melrose said.
"High school definitely wasn't working out for me at all. This has
given me the opportunity to make a good future for myself and has
given me a lot of trades I can put on my resume."
Kribs, a Kalama resident who works at Brandt
Scaffolding in Longview, is one of the program's
early success stories. His aunt saw a flier at
the Hall of Justice after his near-death episode
"(First) I wanted to get my GED," he said,
"so I got my mind set on that. Then I wanted to
learn forklift, so I got my mind set on that."
He learned to assemble scaffolding, operate
power tools, give first aid and CPR. He got
occupational health and safety (OSHA)
certification. The WIA aides showed him how to
assemble a resume, helped him apply for
financial aid for college and urged him to sign
up at Labor Ready, which led to his job.
"The first week on they job they said, ‘You
work hard,' and they kept me on," he said.
Kevin Hale, who teaches construction skills
and financial literacy, partners with other
agencies in the community, such as CAP Self-Help
Housing and Longview Housing Authority's Shared
Opportunities Home Ownership, to let his
students learn by doing.
"These kids get praise from homeowners, and
everybody's real happy with the outcome," Hale
said. "I'm happy, too. They do a lot here on a
The other great thing about the program,
Kribs said, is it "ended my criminal career."
"We've just got to learn from (mistakes),"
Melrose added. "Without this program, I'd
probably still be in Woodland doing stuff I'm
not proud of to get money."
Machin agreed, saying, "This program has kind
of pulled me away from everything I used to do,
but it's put me in a better position for life."
Jail to job-ready: Longview Goodwill trains those who need it most
Cheryll A. Borgaard / The Daily News | Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Cody Abel-Gipson is enrolled in Lower Columbia College's welding program after successfully
completing an apprentice training program through Goodwill Industries. 'They didn't hold my hand, but
they pointed me in the right direction.'
Cody Abel-Gipson has been in and out of Cowlitz
County Jail since he was 18 years old, but he has a
determined resolve to make a change.
in trouble my whole life," the 29-year-old Longview
man said last week. "I was in for assaults,
malicious mischief, drinking, fighting and causing a
He says a worker retraining program
through Goodwill Industries in Longview is helping
him turn his life around. Abel-Gipson started the
program in March while serving a 120-day stint at
the jail for drunken driving. He was among the
training program's first group of graduates last
This week, Goodwill will expand its
fledgling program to reach low-income, high school
dropouts ages 17 to 21 who've had run-ins with the
"We're looking to serve the neediest of the
needy, the hardest to serve and the most desperate
for services," said Madeline Loren, programs
director at Goodwill in Longview. "It's an early
intervention to stop them from heading down the
Applicants undergo a rigorous
interview process, Loren said. If accepted into the
"Construction Skills Pre-apprenticeship Training,"
they attend classes to receive certification in
flagging, first aid, aerial manlifts, fork lifts and
workplace safety while also earning a GED or high
school diploma. Participants get hands-on experience
in construction while working on projects for
Longview Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity and
CAP self-help housing. They also work on
decision-making skills and conflict resolution and
must come up with a career plan, meet deadlines and
work on resume and job interview skills, she said.
"These are not only to get the job, but to keep it
and be a good worker," Loren said.
The program -
one of only three Tacoma Goodwill offers in the 15
counties it oversees - also helps participants
address barriers such as housing, transportation,
child care, and time and finance management.
program is difficult but rewarding, Loren said. Of
the 20 people who started with Abel-Gipson, only
half completed it - and all 10 who graduated either
found employment or are receiving further training,
Loren said. One graduate even landed a job as a crew
foreman, she said.
"There's a lot of personal
accountability because that's the way it is on the
job and in the real world," she said. "There's more
to it than ‘I'm out of work and I need a job.' "
Abel-Gipson said he dropped out of school when he
was 16 to take care of his mother, later earning a
GED while living in Seattle. Just the thought of
applying to college was intimidating, he said, but
he's now attending welding classes at Lower Columbia
"I didn't know what to do, where to go,"
he said. "They didn't hold my hand, but they pointed
me in the right direction. All you got to do is ask
questions, and they'll find the answers."
receiving financial aid, he said, and his
grandfather, aunt and uncle are helping with
finances because he's "just barely scraping by."
After completing the welding classes at LCC,
Abel-Gipson may pursue certification as an
underwater welder or consider enrolling in the
college's diesel mechanic training program. He said
he's glad Goodwill is expanding the program to
"If I hadn't done (the
classes), I don't know where I would be,"
Abel-Gipson said. "The Goodwill program definitely
kicked me in the butt to get going somewhere."
far, three people have enrolled in the juvenile
program, Loren said. She hopes to get at least 10
more participants in order to satisfy requirements
of the $48,000 federal Workforce Investment Act
grant Goodwill received for the program. While the
adult program lasts about two months, the juvenile
program will last a year, she said.
will need to be involved a longer time because
they'll need more individualized attention to make a
career plan," Loren said.
Classes run from 9 a.m.
to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. Some class time is spent on
case management, while other time is devoted to book
work, guest speakers, videos and instruction.
It's called "Pre-apprenticeship Training" because
it's designed to prepare participants for apprentice
programs in the workforce, Loren said.
construction trade is one of the more forgiving
(regarding a criminal record) and in demand," she
said. "Apprentice jobs (in construction) are opening
up," she said.
"From the very first interview,
Cody said going back to his old lifestyle was not a
choice," Loren said. "He really had to think of his
family and turn his life around. Whether it's the
young person or the older individual, they really
have a chance to impact not only their lives, but
their families and the community as a whole."
Tacoma Goodwill has
similar programs in Tacoma and Yakima. To learn more
about Longview Goodwill's Construction Skills
Pre-apprenticeship Training for adults or juveniles,
Many strands together
By Beverly Lionberger, WorkSource Kitsap County
Paul Fuller and friends from left to right:
Greg McCool (DOC),
Jan Chrey, Margaret Hess, Paul Fuller (customer), John Greenway, Joan Schiftner,
Frank Carlson (all WorkSource)
Imagine a long rope attached to a life
preserver ring flung across dark and stormy
waters. Imagine a drowning man reaching out to
grasp that ring, holding on and allowing himself
to be rescued from the frigid water.
this rescue story, the strands of the rope are
made of many employees of WorkSource Kitsap
County, the Department of Corrections (DOC),
Peninsula Work Release Facility and the
Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).
The man who was in danger of drowning is Paul
Fuller (not his real name). And this story is
one of success because the rope was strong and
Fuller knew when to grab it.
to anyone’s success is knowing how to use the
many resources available and asking for help,”
On Dec. 16 last year, Fuller
walked into WorkSource Bremerton and met with
Joan Schiftner, WorkSource specialist. While
Schiftner assessed Fuller’s skills and
abilities, she observed him struggling to
complete his registration form.
“I remember watching him trying so hard to
control the uncontrollable shaking of his
hands,” Schiftner said.
and Fuller talked, he told her that the shaking
of his hands was caused by Parkinson’s Disease.
He also told her how strongly he identified with
his past occupations in logging and forest
firefighting. Plus, he disclosed that he had a
Based on all she had
heard, Schiftner referred Fuller to the Reentry
Orientation Workshop led by John Greenway,
Offender Employment Services (OES) specialist at
“I could see a
glimmer of hope in his eyes,” as Fuller said
goodbye, Schiftner said. Hope was what Fuller
needed, but he had realized that before coming
“I could have continued
to make the wrong decisions and not take a real
look at . . . the truth about me,” Fuller said.
“Five years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s
disease. As my body changed and as the new
struggles emerged, which include massive bouts
of depression and feelings of hopelessness, [it
all] weighed heavily on my shoulders.
“But I was the only one that could make the
changes that needed to be made,” he said. “I
took every class that was offered and always
showed my appreciation.”
Less than a
week after meeting with Schiftner, Fuller
returned to WorkSource to attend the workshop
for ex-offenders. Afterward, he and Greenway
discussed his skills, potential barriers to
employment and Fuller’s support system.
Fuller told Greenway about his conviction
history, how long he had lived in the work-
release facility and about the symptoms he
suffers because of the Parkinson’s disease.
“I . . . started to fall apart as I
watched my mom dying of the same disease that I
was diagnosed with,” Fuller told Greenway. “I
ended up at the bottom of a bottle.”
Because his previous work had been in
physically demanding occupations and because the
Parkinson’s causes tremors in his hands,
Greenway and Fuller puzzled over where he would
find employment. For an ex-offender residing in
a work release facility, employment is a serious
concern because residents risk being sent back
to prison if they fail to seek and find a job.
“The anxiety that he was experiencing
clearly demonstrated his desire to succeed,”
Greenway said. “Paul was determined and came in
to see me regularly to check in and problem
Greenway looked to Margaret
Hess, administrator at WorkSource Kitsap, for
help in encouraging Fuller.
“I see him
filling the role as a mentor for ex-offenders
through sharing of his personal testimony in
overcoming and persevering through great
adversity. He is already having a meaningful
impact on residents of the Peninsula Work
Release,” Hess said.
consulted regularly with Greg McCool, Fuller’s
counselor at Peninsula Work Release and a
constant source of support, Greenway said.
“Fuller, Hess, McCool and I covered such topics
as effective job search strategies, ways to
discuss felonies with employers, bonding, the
Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program available to
employers, résumés and working on improving his
self-confidence,” Greenway said.
had worked in the prison law library during his
incarceration. To his credit, he had decided to
market his transferrable skills, and informed me
that he had been interviewed for a paralegal
Greenway could see that
Fuller was encouraged by the interview and,
later, Fuller was offered and accepted the
position. Greenway followed up with the law
“They were clearly impressed
with him,” he said. Greenway also discussed with
the law office how to obtain assistive
technology that Fuller would need to function in
the position. That’s when DVR stepped in. Tina
Hill, Jenna Dalesky, Jody Axtell, Jan Smith,
vocational rehabilitation specialists, and
Donald Ferrell, their supervisor, helped the
firm get the equipment Fuller needed. The office
was ready for him.
But Fuller was not
ready for the office. He needed specific
training for the job. For this, Greenway put
Fuller in touch with Frank Carlson, WorkSource
specialist at WorkSource Bremerton. Carlson was
able to direct Workforce Investment Act funds
for Fuller’s training costs.
also needed suitable attire. Jan Chrey, Title V
Program coordinator at WorkSource Bremerton,
connected him to the YWCA, who gave him some
business suits. Chrey personally presented
Fuller with a gift bag containing several men’s
At this time, Fuller continues to
live at the Peninsula Work Release Facility, but
is walking down a new career path with the
promise of a new life.
“The last time I
saw Paul he was dressed in a business suit and
beaming with confidence,” said Greenway.
This story is one of success – for Fuller and
for the community of organizations involved. If
one strand of this rescue rope had unraveled, if
the rope had not stretched far enough, or if
Fuller had not chosen to reach for the lifeline
thrown to him, this story might have had a very
different, less positive ending.
must remember that all things in life that are
worth having will take hard work, and only you
can make that happen,” Fuller said.
Tina Hill (left) and JennaDalesky (both
Having a Past Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have a Future – Finding
Jobs for Offenders in Work Release
By Joseph L.
Mitchell, DOC Communications Office
Anita Perry works at the Comfort Inn hotel in Kelso.
“The biggest barrier I faced in finding employment was being a
felon,” said Anita Perry, a former offender from the Longview Work
Release facility. “What helped me to overcome that obstacle was being
honest with potential employers and sharing my plan for how I would
succeed – what steps I was taking toward becoming a productive member of
Perry works as a guest service agent at the Comfort Inn in Kelso, a
position she was able to secure less than a week after entering work
release in November 2008. Her fiancé, Vance Baldwin, works across town
as a welder fabricator supervisor at Fabricast Valve, a company that
builds industrial valves and does custom design welding. Baldwin
was also able to gain employment shortly after entering work release. He
will celebrate his one year anniversary with Fabricast on September 22.
Anita and Vance are both former clients of Vocations Unlimited, a
program operated by Goodwill Industries to help individuals overcome
barriers to employment. The program has been serving reentry offenders
since 2002 with vocational training and education, job placement and
employment assistance, and life skills training.
“We work with
anyone who comes through our door,” said Madeline Loren, the Offender
Reentry Program Manager. “Clients who come to us have many barriers.
Our mission is to change lives by helping people with disabilities or
disadvantages go to work, and having a criminal conviction is certainly
Madeline Loren and Jerry Hastings of Vocations Unlimited
help offenders find employment in the Longview-Kelso area.
The program offers a three hour class for new clients each Monday
that includes a skills and personality assessment, a discussion about
barriers to employment, and instruction on social and soft skills – how
to fill out an application, the proper way to approach employers, and
“It’s like taking a big mound of clay and molding it into a new
creation,” said Jerry Hastings, a job developer trainee for Vocations
Unlimited who teaches the class. “In many cases, we’re taking someone
who has never been in the workforce and helping them integrate into a
whole new world.”
Hastings says that he tries to teach people in the class to be aware
of the impression they are making on employers and how to handle
“We help them learn pro-social behaviors to deal with employers who
have a negative view of work release and who won’t accept their
application,” said Hastings, who also works with employers to hire
program clients. He says that employers have to balance their desire to
hire his clients with community issues, and that some are concerned with
how their business could be impacted because of bias against offenders.
“There are incentives available to companies who are
willing to offer employment to offenders on work release, like tax
credits and a free bonding program that provides state funded insurance
coverage of up to $25,000,” said Hastings. “But the biggest incentive to
hire people on work release is their dependability. Work release rules
require offenders to be on time for work every day and the facility does
random drug testing to insure that offenders in the program remain drug
and alcohol free.”
Vance Baldwin is a welder fabricator supervisor at
Fabricast Valve in Longview.
The positive job performance of offenders from
Vocations Unlimited over the past few years has helped to increase the
number of employers who actively participate in the program from three
to seventy. The program enjoyed a 97 percent employment rate among
offenders at Longview Work Release in the past year.
“Employers should recognize their moral obligation and duty to
society to help people come back and make a contribution,” said Syed
Pasha, who owns and operates the Comfort Inn hotel where Perry works. “I
hired Anita because I saw her potential and that she was trying to get
back to a normal life. She learned her lesson and wanted to move
forward, so we gave her a chance. She has turned out to be a good one.”
“Just because someone has a past doesn’t mean they don’t have a
future. Most everyone has a past,” said Fabricast Valve Superintendent
Steve Norby. “Vance has a lot to offer, that’s why we hired him.
He started out on the floor – the lowest man on the totem pole. He lit
up and shined for us. He brought a lot to the table. He has a great
mechanical aptitude and he’s proven himself to be a good leader.”
Anita and Vance met while serving their sentences at Longview Work
Release. They began dating after they were released, and plan to marry
later this year.
Longview Work Release houses both male and
female offenders. Programming opportunities include chemical dependency
and sex offender aftercare. Additional services are available in the
community, including mental health, parenting, and anger stress