In This Edition:
Ondina

Thanks to you: Ondina has a Strong Foundation

"Opportunity Junction was there to pick me up in ways I could never imagine. They built my confidence and gave me skills, and I am taking the next steps I need to learn and grow to be the professional and mother I know I can be. Thanks to Opportunity Junction, I have a strong foundation I am able to keep building on. It is a foundation of strength and compassion that keeps me up." Read Ondina's story...

placement

OJ Nears 1,000 Job Placements

996. That's the count of job seekers Opportunity Junction has placed into employment since 2000. There were 8 in 2000 and 6 in 2001. The pace has certainly picked up since then! Read more...

Gala 2018

Our 2018 Imagine Gala Celebrated Connections

More than 180 supporters gathered at Diablo County Club on May 5th for an upbeat night of festivities presented by Chevron. With support of sponsors, volunteers, board members, and guests, our 2018 Imagine Gala — Celebrate Connection was a major success, raising almost $128,000 for programs, supplies, and student work experience. Read more ...

graduation

Congratulations to our Job Training Graduates!

We celebrated the graduation of Class 55 of our Job Training and Placement Program on Thursday May 24, 2018 at the El Campanil Theater. Our special guest speaker, Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe, entertained and inspired everyone present with his heartfelt remarks. Read more...

technology center

Technology Center News: New Hours, New Summer Session, New Class

Join the more than 500 people who take advantage of Opportunity Junction's no-cost, evening Technology Center each year. Since the closure of the Antioch AJCC in April, we have expanded our hours to be able to serve more job seekers: we're now open from 5:00pm to 9:00pm, Monday through Thursday. A number of summer classes start the week of May 29, with others starting throughout June, July and August, offering both beginning and advanced classes to develop your computer skills. Read more...

data chart

We're Hiring an Impact and Learning Manager

Opportunity Junction is hiring for the new position of Impact and Learning Manager! The new staffer will help us make better use of the data we collect and assess the results of program changes and pilots. Salesforce administration and data analysis are key skill sets. See the posting here, and please forward it to your networks.

 

 

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Thanks to you: Ondina has a Strong Foundation

Ondina and her childrenWhen Ondina Espinoza reflects back on the events that led her to Opportunity Junction, she has mixed feelings of shame, fear, courage, and pride. Ondina, her husband, and her two children were living comfortably before the Great Recession hit. Things spiraled out of control when her husband lost his job in 2009 and turned to alcohol and drugs when he could no longer support his family.

"He became very cruel and abusive," she shares. "As his addiction worsened, he would constantly tell me what a horrible mother I was and how worthless I was. A family friend even caught him whispering negative things in my ear while I slept. He said it so often that I started to believe it. I couldn't leave him because I was convinced I couldn't take care of my kids without him."

Ondina In 2016, Ondina found the courage to leave. "Things were getting worse and worse. He would say things like, 'I need to sacrifice something,' and he would post people at the house watching us when he would leave. I started gathering important documents and hiding them in the garage preparing to leave him." The final straw came when her husband tried to take their 13-year-old son out of the house at midnight. "I was afraid to sleep because I thought he would take our son. I knew we were in immediate danger."

At the next opportunity, Ondina and her children fled. With only a few possessions, Ondina arrived at her mother's doorstep in Antioch asking for help. "My mom let us in. We were frightened, penniless, and alone. I didn't even have time to grab my shoes. My mom took us in, no questions asked."

Just a week later, Ondina's cousin told her about Opportunity Junction's Job Training and Placement Program. Ondina called on the last day of applications an hour too late. Shannel Steen, Outreach and Employment Specialist, overheard her call and told her that she would give her a special orientation if she could be there by 1:00 pm. "I was so grateful and knew this was my time. I had nothing. I didn't have clothes, I didn't have money, OJ provided everything I needed to be successful in the program.

"I used to believe my ex-husband's words about my weaknesses, but now I know they were lies. I started the program in the fall, and it was the perfect season to start. I had to grow and shed the old parts of myself to make room for the new growth nurtured through the program. I felt irrelevant when I started OJ. But I took the training seriously. My confidence soared and my skills blossomed."

Through an OJ employer connection, Ondina was hired as an administrative assistant with Hospital Systems, Inc. in Pittsburg. "I have been able to get off CalWORKs and CalFresh and bought a car!

"Opportunity Junction was there to pick me up in ways I could never imagine. They built my confidence and gave me skills, and I am taking the next steps I need to learn and grow to be the professional and mother I know I can be. Thanks to Opportunity Junction, I have a strong foundation I am able to keep building on-it is a foundation of strength and compassion that keeps me up."

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OJ Nears 1,000 Job Placements

placements It was the afternoon of job training graduation, and Executive Director Alissa Friedman was checking the database for inspirational statistics. Total verified dollars earned by OJ alumni is always impressive: more than $52 million now. And then she checked for the total number of program alumni who had been placed into employment.

996. 996 since 2000. We are approaching the 1,000-placement milestone! We scored 8 in 2000 and 6 in 2001. The pace has certainly picked up since then! 2016 was our best year so far, with 122 placements combined for alumni of the Job Training and Placement Program, our Career Counseling and Placement Assistance program at SparkPoint Contra Costa, and the Road Map to College.

Members of the Bell Ringers Club have made each placement of a job training participant even sweeter for us, if that's possible. They incentivize us with a donation for each unique initial placement. We're recruiting new members now, so contact Alissa at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. Kudos to charter club member Paladin FS, which is joined by the Alliance of Chief Executives, Teri House, and an anonymous well-wisher.

1,000. The job training graduates of Class 55 are vying to put us over the edge, but they have competition from our SparkPoint job seekers. Alissa is offering to take number 1,000 out for lunch to celebrate. If their new work schedule allows, that is.

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Our 2018 Imagine Gala Celebrated Connections

Gala 2018 More than 180 supporters gathered at Diablo County Club on May 5th for an upbeat night of festivities presented by Chevron. With support of sponsors, volunteers, board members, and guests, our 2018 Imagine Gala - Celebrate Connection was a major success, raising almost $128,000 for programs, supplies, and student work experience.

The theme of the night - Celebrate Connection - speaks to the connection we all have to our community, to each other, and to our neighbors, both those seeking careers and those with employment to offer. It takes all of us, working together. No matter how you to connect with Opportunity Junction, you help launch careers that lift families out of poverty.

Alissa Friedman Guests arrived in good spirits, ready to celebrate. Whether sipping wine, enjoying hand-passed hors d'oeuvres, purchasing raffle tickets, or placing bids for silent auction items, everyone was having a great time. David Fraser Photography was on hand to capture beautiful images of both the guests and the festivities. The excitement continued with a delicious dinner, and a program emceed by our Executive Director Alissa Friedman, to kick off the spirited live auction.

We can't forget the rousing tribute song that Alissa made to honor the sponsors to the tune of "Rainbow Connection." Alissa outdid herself this year AND we captured it on video here!

While fun and laughter filled the room, guests knew our goal was to raise critical funds to keep our organization thriving. We featured the success story of alumna K'Zia Wissner through a video created by Chris Verdugo of CCTV. Watch K'Zia's story here. From the fund-a-need alone, attendees gave $35,000 (the highest we've ever raised from the gala)!

We ended the evening with dancing and celebration. Celebrate Connection!

Chevron tableA huge thank you to our sponsors: Presenting sponsor Chevron, platinum sponsor A.D. Seeno Construction Co., media sponsor Diablo Magazine, gold sponsors U.S. Bank, J.Stokes Agency, and Temen, Kaiser, and Cameron, silver sponsors (Adhesives Products, Inc., Cosmetic Dental Spa, Future State; Laborers Training and Retraining Trust Fund for Northern California, Mt. Diablo Resource Recover - a Garaventa Company, Mechanics Bank, NRG Energy, and Wells Fargo); and bronze sponsors (Comcast, Kaiser Permanente, Nelson Staffing, Peterson Properties, Thompson Family, Travis Credit Union, USS-POSCO, and the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County). Your support and attendance helped us change lives for job seekers and their families, making a lasting and generational mark on this community.

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Congratulations to our Job Training Graduates!

Friends, family, staff, and volunteers all celebrated the accomplishments of Class 55 of the Job Training and Placement Program Thursday May 24, 2018. The graduation ceremony was held at the historic El Campanil Theater in Antioch, sponsored by the Antioch Community Foundation.

graduation graduation graduation graduation

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe served as our special guest speaker at the graduation ceremony. His message of perseverance and overcoming adversity was both inspiring and entertaining for all in attendance. Mayor Pro Tem Thorpe also serves as vice president of development and communications at the Greater Sacramento Urban League, an organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of underserved urban communities in the Greater Sacramento area.

Three of our Class 55 graduates have already been offered employment and the rest are now completing internships at Opportunity Junction or with our community partners. During the internship phase of the program, the graduates will gain valuable administrative work experience while also engaging in job search activities.

If you missed the graduation ceremony, don't worry - you can still catch a recording of the event. It will be aired on Contra Costa Television (CCTV) at the following times:

  • Thursday, June 7 at 11:00 am
  • Saturday, June 9 at 1:00 pm
  • Tuesday, June 12 at 9:00 pm
  • Thursday, June 14 at 11:00 am
  • Saturday, June 16 at 1:00 pm
  • Tuesday, June 19 at 9:00 pm
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Technology Center News: New Hours, New Summer Session, New Class

technology center With summer's longer days, it is the perfect time to sign up for an evening class at Opportunity Junction's Technology Center. You can learn new skills or brush up on skills you haven't used in a while. Our 2018 summer schedule of classes is posted on our website at https://www.opportunityjunction.org/free-classes/computer-basics, with some classes starting the week of May 29. We offer our full series of classes starting throughout the summer: Computer Basics, Computer Intermediate, Internet, Email, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Computer Basics in Spanish. We also offer a drop-in typing course and ongoing English as a Second Language (ESL).

Starting June 4, we're excited to offer a new class, Project Management, a 10-week series in which students will gain the skills it takes to be a project manager: leadership, organization, managing people, process management, problem solving, and communication. Students will also learn estimating, scheduling, and budgeting. Virtually every job benefits from project management and developing these core skills can help our students move up in almost any company.

In addition to our regular classes, OJ has opened its doors to job seekers using the resources formerly available at the America's Job Center of California (AJCC) in Antioch. Since the closure of the Antioch AJCC in April, OJ has opened up computer workstations during both daytime and evening, with staff help available. Drop-ins are welcome at 3102 Delta Fair Blvd. in Antioch.

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New Grants and Support for our Programs

We are proud and grateful to announce the following new grants and funding partnerships:

  • The Anonymous Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation: The Anonymous Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation issued a grant of extremely valuable core operating support. While we allocate most unrestricted funds to program support, core operating support also enables us to maintain a strong infrastructure (technology, finance) and to pilot promising new initiatives.
  • Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation: The Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation has a clear and simple mission - to enhance the quality of life in Contra Costa through charitable giving in support of education, the arts, and children and families. We are entering the third year of a three-year grant for general support of our programs serving motivated low-income job seekers.
  • NRG Energy, Inc.: NRG Energy, Inc. renewed its support for Bay Point and Pittsburg residents participating in our Job Training and Placement Program. NRG has also provided key support to Opportunity Junction as a source of volunteers and as a sponsor of the Imagine Gala.
  • Strive for Change Foundation: The foundation renewed its support for our programs that help the working poor in Contra Costa County achieve economic self-sufficiency. Each year, the foundation starts from scratch to raise all of the money it gives away to Opportunity Junction and other effective East Bay organizations.
  • Thomas J. Long Foundation: After more than four decades supporting hundreds of nonprofits in the East Bay, the Thomas J. Long Foundation generously awarded Opportunity Junction an unexpected final core operating support grant. We are honored to call the foundation a partner in impacting change in our community.
  • Tipping Point Community: Tipping Point Community provided the second payment on Opportunity Junction's annual core operating grant, as well as provided funding for our participation in EDD and Impact Matters.
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Newsletter Contributors: Eva Luo, Brianna Robinson, Cynthia Dial, Melinda Johnson, and Alissa Friedman. Photographs by Brianna Robinson, Alissa Friedman, and David Fraser Photography. Gala logo design by J.Stokes Agency. Newsletter assembled by Lea Mason. (Thanks, Lea!)

On the Road to Self-Sufficiency — Opportunity Junction fights poverty by helping low-income Contra Costa residents gain the skills and confidence to get and keep jobs that support themselves and their families.

Opportunity Junction is exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
© Opportunity Junction 2018