On Giving

In the space of 48 hours, JVSWorks has learned everything there is to learn about the practice of giving and, perhaps as a bonus, we have received several very helpful suggestions as to where/how we should give our time/heart/money. Ask us anything and we will “give” you our wisdom. OK, with tongue removed from cheek, let's back things up for a moment…

My giving musings (or in some case “mis-givings,” perhaps) are entirely in tune with this, the season of giving. Many of you, like myself, may still be battling off the post-holiday glaze of Thanksgiving and have arrived here on Giving Tuesday en route to completing our holiday shopping. All the ads say the same thing…it’s time to buy, buy, buy, so you can give, give, give. You can rest when the calendar flips to December 26, or perhaps to January 1, 2015.

Now we all know that Thanksgiving has nothing to do with presents. For that matter, neither does Giving Tuesday, a campaign which is all about giving back and which encourages participants to find a cause they believe in and support it:

From the Giving Tuesday website:

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.

Given that ‘tis the season of giving and all, there has been a recent spate of articles about the nature of giving...why we do it, why we should do it, how it makes us feel. I went from Anna Goldenberg who bundled food and sex in with philanthropy in her piece in the Jewish Daily Forward (now there’s an attention-getter) to entrepreneur and philanthropist Tim McCarthy listing his “4 Reasons Why Giving is Good for You” in Working World to David T. Levinson’s exhaustive list of giving dos, donts and principles splashed across no fewer than five pages of the Jewish Journal.

All three are interesting reads for different reasons. None interweave or offer the suggestion that you – dear reader – should be writing a check to Charity X or Foundation Y. Granted, Levinson is the only one of the three who operates a nonprofit and he makes it pretty clear that if he ever gets to know you, he will eventually be asking you for something. Such is the nature of the giving/philanthropy beast. At least the man is honest and has a sense of humor about it.

The “Rules” and “Reasons” formats effectively breaks up the narrative of each of the articles, preventing anybody from getting too bogged down. Levinson’s story in particular – given that it’s offering 12 rules each for giving and getting – pretty much makes this formatting essential.

As noted, JVSWorks encourages you to read all three articles so you that you too may become as well versed in giving as we are.

You too can learn, for example, that giving has been known to successfully combat anhedonia, the inability to enjoy activities that are typically found pleasurable. McCarthy found philanthropy therapeutic in dealing with  his own post-wealth acquiring anhedonia.

Or were you aware that giving can both make you suffer (you will become a more effective and committed giver if you identify with the cause to which you are donating) and it will potentially make you a physically stronger person? So contends the Forward’s Goldenberg who also maintains that the mesolimbic system which produces the feelings of “empathic joy” is also the part of the brain that responds to food and sex.

Lengthy though it is, Levinson’s article – which came out just before Thanksgiving - is a must-read. I was not previously acquainted with his nonprofit Big Sunday. Nor have I read his book Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins: How Absolutely Anyone Can Pitch in, Help Out, Give Back and Make the World a Better Place. Regardless, this man knows whereof he speaks when he talks about nonprofits, the people who run them, and the people who support them. His advice is wise, down to earth, funny, shrewd, practical and in no way self-promoting.

Give the man a read.

And happy Giving Tuesday.

An amazing speech about priorities


Speeches come and go. Every now and again, you hear a speech that blows you away. Those in attendance at "Two Generations Making a Difference," JVS' annual fall gala honoring the work and contributions of the Felsenthal family, enjoyed an evening of good food, good company,enjoyable music and a general air of celebration.

We also heard a speech by honoree Jerry Felsenthal who, with his wife Judith, son Leland and daughter-in-law,


Erica are longtime supporters of JVS in a  variety of ways. You can read all about them in the news section of the JVS website.

Jerry Felsenthal's speech was one of the ages...on point, moving, erudite, the perfect conclusion to an already powerful evening.

I sincerely wish you all could have heard this speech.

I am reprinting it here.

"On behalf of my wife, my family, Erica, Leland, we’re very grateful for this award. It’s very special. Leland and Judy serve on the Scholarship Committee. Erica gives her time as a professional psychologist to JVS. I also want to pay recognition to my daughter Lisa and her husband David, and my son Alan who are here tonight and who give of their time generously to various forms of community service.

All of the recognitions of one's achievements in the community are truly great for the honorees. Tonight’s presentation occurs with a special significance for our family. First, because JVS has a very long history of doing the right thing in communities. Second of all, because it allows people to act one on one to help other people with tremendous success. And third, and I speak now to all the people who are here today, by the simple act of self involvement  it allows each of us to make a difference. And so it is the people here tonight who make the award so meaningful to us. Not only do we take pride in the achievements  of JVS, we grow and enrich our lives by the association with the very people here tonight. To understand why JVS is so significant to us is no deeper than to understand the meaningful role of community service. Many of us here come from an ancient people, a people that believes that not only is life important, but it is very important  to look out for one another, especially in times of need.

In short, when you engage in what JVS does, you add real meaning to what it means to participate in the things that matter. So what really matters? What matters and what doesn’t matter? What doesn’t really matter is  how much money you have. What doesn’t really matter is the wins and losses that one day seemed so important. What really doesn’t matter is where you came from. And what really doesn’t matter are the grudges and jealousies that once seemed important.

So what are the things that matter and how do they relate to the very people that are here? Simply put, because those of you who are here tonight live your lives by incorporating the very things that matter. My suspicion is that as I tell you the things that matter to us,that  you will be able to identify them very easily.

What matters is not what you bought , but what you build. What matters is not what you got, but what you gave. What matters is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is not what you’ve learned, but rather what you have taught.

What will matter is not really your competency, but your character. And what will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many people will feel a  lasting loss when you’re gone. What will matter is your memories, the memories of those who lived and loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, for whom and for what. I can assure you that the people we help today will remember us for a long time.

Judith, Leland, Erica and each of you in attendance tonight which includes the donors the recipients and the beneficiaries of the various different programs...it is each of you who gives and who benefits that work to improve society. It is each of you who donate to JVS that quietly acknowledge the individual blessings and successes that have been granted to you.

As each of you who have suffered setbacks thathave been put back on the right road, that will when you have the time become productive members and give back. Having done so, my guess is that you can’t wait to give back. Very often the true value of your contributions are overlooked. We live in a society that focuses on drama, violence, what’s wrong with society and not enough time is given to the goodness of people that engage in community service. Many claim we have lost our way and that we act only in our own self-interest.

I suggest to you that that’s all wrong and the very people here tonight that give of themselves, give of their time, and  give of their money prove that is simply not the truth.

The author Pat Conroy says the four most powerful words in the English language are "tell me a story" and I want to share a little story. There was a little girl in 1897 by the name of Virginia O’Hanlon, and she wrote a very famous letter to the editor of the Sun Times in New York and she wondered whether or not there was still goodness on the earth and people would do things where there wasn’t a direct reward. She wrote this letter and she basically said, "Is there a Santa Claus?" In response to her letter, Francis Chruch, who was the editor of the New York Sun at the time, said "Yes, Virginia there is goodness. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." He exists as certainly as there is love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and they will give your life meaning, joy and beauty.

And so it is with you here tonight. By the simple act of involving yourself and giving, you help those in need and you confirm that in spite of what the media says, that there is much goodness out there, and what you do is special. The Canadian writer Violet Putnam who is one of my favorite people, says "The entire sum of one’s existence is the magic of being needed by just one person." All of your life, all of the meaning in your life is the magic of being needed by just one person. If that is true, and I genuinely believe that it is, each of you here tonight should be very proud of yourself, knowing that your lives have meaning that you engage in the things that matter.

Before closing I would like to thank you on behalf of my family once again for honoring us with this JVS Lifetime Achievement Award, and finally I have a  request of each of you, a special favor.

When you finally get to your car, when you get in the car and you drive with whoever you driving who can’t believe that you can drive home by yourself without their constructive criticism help, cheerily question how you get home safely every night without their assistance, after you do what you normally would do to prepare for bed in whatever manner you choose, and in the few quiet moments, those few seconds where you sit on your bed before your head hits the pillow and you travel into the Land of Nod, take either your right hand of your left hand, put it on your shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back and just for one moment acknowledge the sensation that you are truly a good person, that you positively engage in the things that matter. You should feel very good about yourselves.

Good night and thank you.

September Jobs - LTUs, MAs and Post-Recession Pessimism

Really, it’s all about perspective…about considering the unseen. As is always the case, there is a ton of data in the monthly job numbers released by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and JVSWorks is positive that economists and those with strong political views can spend hours parsing, dissecting and theorizing.

In this space, however, I consistently feel like I should hang a Clinton-esque sign that reads “It’s Still the Long Term Unemployed, Stupid!”

No, I don’t actually believe that the DOL or anybody who assembles or comments upon the monthly job numbers are really stupid. I also don’t believe, however, that we can ever point to a declining unemployment percentage and conclude that America is forging its way back from the recession…not with 5.2 million Americans either out of work for eight months or those out of the labor force because they have essentially given up hope of finding employment.

I’m speaking, of course, about the 3 million long-term unemployed who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer and the 2.2 million who are marginally attached to the labor force,  i.e. those who are not actually counted as being in the labor force, but who wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

It feels reductive to make an acronym out of human beings in distress, but let’s call these long term unemployed LTUs and the marginally attached MAs.

A bit more about the MAs: they fall into two subcategories: those who stopped looking for work due to school or family obligations (numbering 1.5 million in September) and the 698,000 “discouraged workers” who halted their job hunt because, well, it’s fairly obvious. Because they don’t think there are any jobs out there for them.

(I frankly wonder how anybody out of work for more than, say, two weeks can be anything but discouraged, but that’s neither here nor there.)

JVSWorks has had occasion to speak to more than a few LTUs and the occasional MA at job fairs or at one of the JVS career resource of America’s Job Centers. In fact, we recently had an LTU who became something of a celebrity after he was featured in a Labor Day story written by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times.

Not that this is the kind of celebrity that anybody wants. The title of Lopez’s article is “Labor force excludes many Americans who desperately need jobs," and it is both sobering and depressing. Equally gloomy is  “Unhappy, Worried, and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession,” a research study published by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

The Heldrich study surveys more than 1,100 people about their perceptions of the nation’s economy five years after the official “end” of the recession. Even with overall unemployment falling, the survey respondents are not popping champagne corks.  Only 20 percent of currently employed workers surveyed have confidence that they could land another job if they were laid off. That’s right…the people who currently have jobs are as unhappy, worried and pessimistic as those who do not.

The Heldrich survey also cites research from the Brookings Institution to remind people that the recession is not exactly as much in America’s rear-view mirror as people may think.  Yes, we added 248,000 nonfarm jobs in September, but it will take the addition of 7 million jobs to return to the once full employment experienced at the beginning of the century. At our  current rate, we won’t get back to pre-Recession levels until early 2019.

One more nugget: “Declining unemployment is also due in part to the large number of workers who quit looking for jobs and left the labor force altogether; more than one in six men – over 10 million workers – in their prime working years are either unemployed or no longer looking for work.”

A New Life in Larsen Bay

There are places in Alaska that JVSWorks would like to visit. Larsen Bay – population around 100 – had not been on that list. No disrespect intended. Larsen Bay is situated up about 60 miles southwest of Kodiak and, unless wildlife viewing, birding and fishing is your bag, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to do in that probably quite beautiful part of the world. (JVSWorks is a proud and professed metropolitan city clicker). Based on recent events, however, JVSWorks would now very much like to check the place out in order to get a  first-hand glimpse of some of that fantastic scenery, find a place where they know how to cook up some salmon (which probably isn’t difficult to find) and meet some of the JVS clients from the General Relief Opportunities for Work (GROW)  in Lancaster.

Make that the employed GROW workers who, given how seriously they’re taking their work  cutting up salmon for Icicle Seafoods, might not have that much leisure time to spare.

GROW job developer Karla Ojeda and supervisor Edwin Rivas and forged a partnership that brought representatives of Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods down to Lancaster to recruit workers for the salmon season. The recruitment took place in late June with 200 potential workers interviewed and about 50 hired. The new workers quickly boarded a bus for Seattle, had their applications and drug tests processed and were put on boats bound for Larsen Bay to meet up with fishing and processing boats. Subsequently, GROW sent some additional workers from Lancaster up to work in Icicle Seafoods processing plants.  For the month of June, that boosted the GROW’s placement percentage at 43%

Because of circumstances in their lives, these are clients who  have experienced  considerable difficulty finding work locally in the Antelope Valley. Many have had run-ins with the law and now have prison records. Others have struggled with past addictions. Several were homeless. Nonetheless, the recruiters from Icicle Seafoods recognized in them solid potential workers.

“It’s a great opportunity for them,” said Rivas. “Their room and board is paid for. Basically, all they have to do is work and they can save their paychecks. Some have decided to move up there and start a new life.”


“The employer is very pleased,” he added. “One of the sea captains said that our workers are extremely clean and also extremely loud.”

The work is demanding, concedes Icicle Seafoods HR Manager Anne Marie Todd. When they packed for the trip, the new employees were told to bring compression socks because of the benefits and relief they provide from being on their feet for so long during their shift.

But as many of us know, nothing trumps a steady paycheck, particularly when you haven’t seen one in awhile.

“Some of those people got tears in their eyes when we offered them work,” said Todd. “This is an opportunity for them to get some money together and start things over.”


Icicle Seafoods will be back to Lancaster in September to recruit again for the crab season.

"Highly Qualified Job Candidates" and "Pre-screened Qualified Veteran Talent"

One day, Christina Watkins was conducting assessments with a group of veterans in Lancaster.

The next week, the  career development specialist with the Salvation Army Haven was being introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at City Hall as part of the Mayor's 10,000 Strong Veterans Hiring Initiative.

The goal of the Mayor's initiative - undertaken in partnership with multiple business and nonprofits including JVS - is to put 10,000 veterans back to work in the City of Los Angeles by 2017.

Watkins, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, had run up against barriers to employment once she returned stateside and as she was finishing up her graduate degree in Fresno. Things weren't much better in Los Angeles.

JVS helped her, both in terms of polishing up her resume and interviewing skills and by finding a position at Salvation Army Haven, a nonprofit with which we frequently partner.

Watkins' speech is below. You can also catch it on youtube.

"Hello everyone, my name is Christina and I am a U.S. veteran who served in Iraq. I stand before you today employed. However, my path to a job was not an easy one and it can be similarly challenging to the thousands of unemployed veterans out there.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. Following my second deployment, I decided to leave the service. I worked for awhile in my hometown in NY before deciding to pursue my graduate degree in Fresno. As I approached graduation, I started looking for jobs, and I got nothing. No bites. So I decided to come down here to LA where I stayed for a very long time sleeping on an air mattress at my aunt’s, joining the thousands of veterans who fall under the couch surfing homeless category. Like many veterans, I had a lot of skills that just didn’t translate well on paper. I could do a million things, but I had little experience how to tell potential employers that while I might not have the exact skills or experience they were looking for, I had the right foundational skills such that with  minimal training, I could do exactly what they needed.

In the military we are taught special values and skills including leadership, initiative, teamwork communication and getting the job done under often very adverse conditions. These are skills that we will bring to the civilian workplace, and they will be valued by any employers

But despite having a Masters degree and strong transferable skills, I couldn’t even get a job as a barista at Starbucks.

Ultimately I went to my local EDD office where I was referred to the WorkSource Center operated by JVS of LA. At JVS, I worked with Alex Mack, another veteran who told me how to better translate my skills and sharpen my interview techniques. Alex also advocated strongly on my behalf with potential employers. I went through workshops where I learned to articulate my strengths and developed a plan to get the job I wanted. I networked and met with other job seekers. We shared information and pushed each other to do better. With Alex’s help and through those experiences, I ended up acquiring the highest paying civilian job I have ever had. I now work with the Salvation Army Haven Veteran Employee Services where I provide the same type of assistance to other veterans that was provided to me by JVS. In my current job I help prepare other veterans to stand out as highly qualified job candidates and help employers find pre-screened qualified veteran talent.

I want to thank the Mayor for the 10,000 Strong hiring initiative as it recognizes the unique and sometime extensive challenges faced by our veterans. It also recognizes the skills our veterans bring to the workforce. I recently saw a poster that said “It took strength to serve. It can seem even harder to ask for help. Our military members are accustomed to getting things done and taking care of others. So it can be a challenge to reach out and admit when we aren’t getting it down on our own. This initiative makes it easier for veterans to reach out, as it makes clear that there is something to reach towards.

I previously mentioned the Salvation Army and JVS. I also want to express my appreciation to everyone here today who is part of making sure that veterans find meaningful employment. Both as a veteran and as someone serving the veteran community, I thank the city of Los Angeles and the employers who have partnered with the Mayor in support of the 10,000 Strong Hiring initiative.

Thank you, and have a great day."

Stories Worthy of a Standing Ovation


It happens every year, and it is never less than wonderful. Attendees of JVS' annual Strictly Business L.A.

watch an agency-produced video telling the story of our JVS Inspiration Award honorees. Once the video is concluded, the individuals take the stage to receive their awards, and the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel goes nuts.

It happened again earlier this month at the 17th Annual JVS Strictly Business L.A. Luncheon and Gala. Following the screening of “JVS: Rekindling the Dream,” Jim Harmer, Felicia Cates and Edward Webster – the subjects of the video - took the stage to a standing ovation.

They’ve earned that ovation, and more. Harmer and Cates completed JVS training programs and turned their lives around. Webster, a former veteran, worked with JVS Veterans First and ended up with  a wonderful new job.

We could tell you more about the lives our honorees  led and the obstacles they overcame en route to that stage and that ovation. But given the quality of the work put in by JVS VP Communications Katherine Moore and director JB Lechtinger of JBL Films, we encourage you to check out “JVS Rekindling Dreams” and hear the stories for yourself.

Be sure to let us know what you think!

"But what has he done?" -- Researching Charities


Amidst the train wreck, dumpster fire, nuclear meltdown that is the Donald Sterling situation, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers posed an interesting set of questions to Anderson Cooper. Cooper’s interview of Sterling on CNN was supposed to be Sterling’s apology for the bigoted remarks made to his girlfriend V. Stiviano that were later leaked to TMZ, aired throughout the nation and resulted in Sterling receiving a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from the NBA.

Sterling sort of apologized, but he also used the forum to take several shots at NBA legend, and former Los Angeles Laker, Earvin Magic Johnson, claiming that Johnson was a poor role model for the youth of L.A. because he contracted HIV.

Sterling also accused Johnson – who is not currently on trial in the court of public opinion over anything -- of neglecting the African American community.

“What does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything,” Sterling said. “What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?”

Cooper didn’t snap up that particular bit of bait, but plenty of commentators did. Because it’s as easy as a Johnson slam dunk (or let’s say dish out an assist, since Magic was a point guard) to find that answer. Two or three clicks will get you there.

What has Magic Johnson done? Well…

The Magic Johnson Foundation, founded in 1991 and located on Wilshire Blvd. - not far from JVS -  has raised more than $20 million for AIDS education, research and prevention. The foundation has given more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 800 minority high school students through its Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program. Johnson has brought numerous businesses – movie theaters, Starbucks etc. – to urban areas. The Foundation’s motto, somewhat ironically given Sterling’s jab, is “We are the communities we serve.”

Like many other nonprofits, we tend to put a lot of stock in the words of Charity Navigator which is pretty much the gold standard for ranking charities and guiding intelligent giving. JVS likes Charity Navigator, and they like us. And for good reason. JVS recently earned Charity Navigator’s 4-star ranking – the highest ranking possible – for a seventh consecutive year. Only 2% of all nonprofits reviewed by the site have been top-ranked for that length of time.

Even if Donald Sterling didn’t want to conduct a ton of research into the individual he was about to trash, he could have found a nice quickie answer at Charity Navigator. He might have learned that…

“The Magic Johnson Foundation, founded by Earvin 'Magic' Johnson in 1991, works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities. Over the past few years, the Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, supported more than 800 minority high school students with college scholarships (through the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program), opened 20 Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Centers located in underserved communities across the country, and provided a range of community-based initiatives including an annual Children's Mardi Gras and holiday toy drive.”

Or Sterling might have gone directly to the “Our Impact” section of the Magic Johnson Foundation’s website where there’s plenty of good information.

The foundation’s website does contain one error, however…

“MJF has achieved a 3-star rating on Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. MJF’s audit is conducted in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the US.


Did you spot it? In fact, the current Charity Navigator ranking for the Magic Johnson Foundation is 4 stars, not 3, a ranking that befits a charity that does a lot for a lot of people.

So that’s what Magic Johnson has done.

And that’s how you find out.

Words of Wisdom and Inspiration from a HealthWorks Graduate


Earlier this week, JVS graduated a group of 15 Certified Nurse Assistant trainees from its HealthWorks™ program. These men and women were all excellent students and show great promise as they start their career in the medical profession.

The graduation featured a speech by a woman who went through JVS HealthWorks in 2011 and who subsequently became a CNA first at Marina Care Center and then subsequently moved to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Her speech Wednesday was extremely powerful and had about half the audience reaching for tissues. We think that much of her advice applies not just to working as a CNA, but to general life issues as well.

Felicia will be recognized with the JVS Inspiration Award at the 17th Annual Strictly Business L.A. Award in May. After you read the speech below, you'll understand why.


Felicia Cates: Good morning. It’s my pleasure to be here this morning. Congratulations to this wonderful class. Not too long ago, I just finished HealthWorks and I went on to work. I faced many challenges going through the class and doubting myself and I hope you all realize you made it his far. There’s a lot of people who didn’t make it to where you sit today. And I hope you appreciate that and take that with you and remember when you have those hard days at work, don’t let anybody take your smile, but remember what you’ve already overcome.

I graduated in January, but I didn’t take a job until October for many different reasons. I let doubt set in and I started wondering, ‘Could I do this?’ for many different reasons. I wondered, ‘Who wanted a fat nurse to take care of them?’ Anything that could have kept me down. Some places I went to, and I just knew this isn’t the place for me because I want to work with someone with integrity who takes care of their patients.

And I just ask that you remember that those patients are your mom, and your aunts. They’re your family. I don’t have my own family. I haven’t since a very young age, but those patients have truly become my family.

I worked two years in a convalescent home. I think you may know Marina Care. I worked there for two years and I loved it. I loved my patients.

Don’t judge yourself by what you see other CNAs do. You don’t always want to copy what other people do. You take the lessons, the good things from each individual person and let that be who you become. Don’t judge yourself because another CNA moves faster than you. You may just find that your slowness is just what the patients need.

I used to wonder, ‘Am I made for this, to be with someone dying of cancer. Do I want to see that?” Today I know I’m just the person for that. I need to be there. I need to hold that hand. You don’t know how many hospital rooms you’ll be in and there will be no family there. You don’t have to say anything. Some of those patients may not understand what you say, but they understand the love that flows from hand to hand. They do, and they appreciate it and they tell me all the time. I told you I worked at Marina Care  for two years. I’m not there anymore because I took a chance of a lifetime, and I got a job at Cedars-Sinai, and I’m very proud to be there. I’m proud of being a part of JVS and I’m thankful for all you wonderful donors who give people a chance, who invest in strangers you don’t even know.  Thank you. Because my life has been changed. I can now provide for my family and be confident and know that we’re OK. I hope to always make JVS proud that they invested in me, and I hope that you always make them proud as well as yourselves.

Don’t let doubts set in. Take each others' numbers today, and when you get on that job and you have those tough days, you call each other and you encourage each other. Don’t give up. I’ve had many of my past classmates call me and ask me what to do. Whatever you do, don’t walk off the job. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Don’t let anyone steal your joy.

Don’t focus on what your co-workers say. You focus on your patients and give them the best care you can give because the patient’s voice is the voice that matters. Treat al of your patients, even when they’re being difficult, even though some will fight you while you try to give them the care that they need. Treat them all like very important clients with the highest paying dollar. Don’t let money motivate you because you feel, ‘Oh they don’t pay you enough.’ Every job you’re going to feel like that. But the love that the patients repay you and that the family will show you, that’s beyond any dollar that I can earn at any job. And while I’m proud to work at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, for the company that I feel like is the greatest company ever, I’m most proud of being with my patients.

Don’t become confused. Be careful of the crowd that you keep and congratulations again, and I hope to hear from you all and hear many great stories. And don’t forget to reach back and tell JVS thank you. Because while I finished my obligation to JVS a long time ago, when I got to Cedars, I let them know I’m here and thank you.

Have a good day.

E-mails from All-Star HealthWorks™ Class of May 2013

At JVS, we love and root for all of our training program graduates. We delight in hearing of their progress and are first in line with a “Don’t give up. You can do it,” when they encounter challenges or setbacks. BankWork$™ or HealthWorks™, WoMentoring™, Veterans First, JVS Youth Program, JVS Scholarship Program students…when you join the JVS family, you become of the JVS Family now and forever. Back in May of 2013 – has it really been almost a year! – we sent the six graduates of our Canoga Park HealthWorks™ class out into the world with their CNA certifications, their can-do attitudes and their multitude of skills.

Not surprisingly, they seem to be doing great. We don’t always hear from our program graduates, but a couple of recent e-mails sent to HealthWorks™ Prorgam Manager Angelica Generoso have confirmed what we already knew - that this class had some winners.

The first e-mail came from Washington DC where graduate Robertina Mbedzi reported that she was settled in as an assistant at the Health Unit of the South African Embassy.

Robertina had this job in place even as she graduated HealthWorks.™ She has some ambitious goals, namely to earn MBA and start her own business.

“During the interview process I definitely made an impression because of my experience and interest in … health care,” writes Robertina.  “I will forever be grateful to JVS for the opportunity. I made lifetime friends who continue to bless me. After my CNA (training), I knew I would never be unemployed. I turned down jobs and passed on so many.”

Team HealthWorks™ had barely overcome the warm and fuzzy feelings engendered by Robertina’s note when they heard from another May 2013 graduate.

This e-mail came from Jaleesa Simss who had taken a position at the Jewish Home for the Aging shortly after completing her HealthWorks™ training. Not surprisingly, this was a first step for Jaleesa who continues to work at the JHA while studying for her LVN license at the Annenberg School for Nursing.

“I no longer have a social life and my complete focus is on school,” writes Jaleesa who will graduate in February 2015. “Everyday I'm learning something new and constantly pushing myself to stay focused. It's definitely not easy but it ALL will be worth it. Just wanted to update you and say thank you for everything you and JVS (have) done for me. I cannot say that enough!”

Big congrats and good wishes to Robertina, Jaleesa and all our wonderful graduates. You make us shine!

The Jobs Picture: Where Often is Heard a “Discouraging” Word…

The monthly jobs snapshot is monotonous. There, we’ve said it. Go ahead and cast your stones and swing your clubs, you data-obsessed number watchers. Those of you who are up with the roosters every first Friday beeline-ing it for your e-mail or for the Department of Labor’s website, yeah we’re talking to you.

Will this picture never ever change? How many different ways can we crunch the numbers, ponder the data that always says the same thing: unemployment is dropping, ever so slightly, and new jobs are being added, but not nearly at a fast enough pace to get us back to pre-Recession levels.  There are still an obscene number of people who have been out of work for 27 weeks are longer (AKA the long-term unemployed), although their ranks are also dropping as their unemployment runs out and they are no longer counted as part of the labor force.

Let me repeat that last bit.

The number of long-term unemployed, according to the January data just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is at 3.6 million, which is actually a decline of 232,000 from December, making the percentage of long-term unemployed at 35.8% of the total 10.2 million. That’s the lowest percentage of long-term unemployed since August of 2009 (and thank you, as always, Dean Baker and the Center for Economic and Policy Research for your perspective and insight).

Don’t kid yourself into believing that the majority of those 232,000 people are now happily working away at new positions. More likely, their unemployment benefits ran out and they dropped out of the labor force. And if the Republicans and the Democrats ever get their act together and figure out a way to extend unemployment again, (which JVSWorks has called upon them to do), we can probably expect the number of long-term unemployed to start climbing again. Because despite the fact that we seem to add new jobs every month (a meager 113,000 in January), again, the jobs gain is not enough to keep pace with the people who are looking for work, long-term unemployed or otherwise.

So this month, just to break up the monotony of the jobs numbers report a little bit, what’s say we laser in on a figure and a category that caught our attention:

“Among the marginally attached, there were 837,000 discouraged workers in January, about unchanged from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.8 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.” (Emphasis mine).

There’s a category for everything, no? That’s a small fraction, certainly, 837,000 people who are not currently looking for work because they believe – probably from experience – that there is no work to be found. It could be argued that pretty much anybody who is job seeking these days has probably been discouraged.

This issue, this term, came into sharper focus as I was pursuing an excellent article by Mark Peters and David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal. Under the category Idled Americans, Peters and Wessel wrote that “More Men in Their Prime are out of Work and at Home.” More than one in six men in the prime working age of 25 to 54, was out of work, 10.4 million total, they report. And darned if those two Journal reporters didn’t scour the nation to find some representative examples. They introduce us to Mark Riley, the laid off grant writer of an Arkansas community college, Kenneth Gilkes, Jr., former public school worker and community outreach worker who is 29 years old and is applying for two jobs a day.

On it goes: the commodities worker turned tech support employee; the U.S. Army veteran who was discharged due to an injury before he could retire with a comfortable pension, the 35 year-old man with no college education who, after moving back to his native Michigan started looking for part-time work.

You read of these men borrowing against their life insurance, defaulting on their credit cards, relying on family and friends when their unemployment insurance runs out, inventing home projects, volunteering at food banks…whatever it takes to stay busy, productive and sane.

I was struck by a quote by the aforementioned Kenneth Gilkes.

“Sometimes I get discouraged, but honestly I can’t stop applying,” he said. “Everyone tells me there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

There’s that “d” word again. Because he keeps filling out the applications and hitting “send,” Gilkes is not officially among the folks the BLS categorizes as a “discouraged workers.”

Still, we get where he’s coming from. The people who come to the JVS WorkSource Centers are in the same boat. You read or hear stories like this and you think, “There but for the whims of fate go I.”

It’s a sobering prospect, meeting those faces behind the numbers. Sobering and, yes, very very discouraging.

The Benefits of Having a JVS WoMentor


As we approach the end of National Mentoring Month, we hear from guest blogger Sheryl Giffis, a mentee in JVS' WoMentoring program. JVS and the WoMentoring program have helped redefine my relationship to the world of work. I have a new passion for career development and for helping others find meaningful work in empowering environments.

I am in the midst of transitioning to career coaching and counseling and I wanted a mentor who could help me navigate the waters of being self-employed doing work I love with people I respect.

Like a coach, a mentor is a directive guide and advisor, but she is so much more. JVS matched me with Diana L. Ho, a management consultant.

One of the reasons Diana’s mentoring is so powerful is that she reaches out to me with ideas designed to expand my thinking and awareness. I am used to being the one who generates, but according to Diane Shapiro, manager of WoMentoring, a mentoring relationship,  is designed to foster the professional development of the mentee. Diana and I have also spent social time over coffee and meals, which has given us a fun way to connect and share ideas. Diana appreciates when I share resources that are new to her.

Every woman would benefit from having a WoMentor!

Here are some benefits I have experienced:

  • Hands-on “fieldwork”: I get to go on ride-alongs with Diana, which allow me access to her professional world and has opened up a sense of what’s possible for me. For example, she gave me the opportunity to shadow her interviewing the CEOs of a start-up she was advising. I have witnessed the diversity of the kind of management consulting she does, understanding how I might operate in such a capacity, in ways I might not have otherwise imagined.


  • · Modeling. Not the high fashion type, but the down-to-earth, real world, “here’s how I do what I do, see if it works for you” variety. I model what works for my life and business. Diana helps me think about my clients, my systems, my value offering and business style and how to structure my days.


  • · Accountability and women power. I was intimidated at first because our backgrounds are so different: Diana has a strong business background with an MBA, and I come from the entertainment industry with a graduate degree in psychology. How could I do what she does? But we meet in a lot of areas of commonality, such as financial responsibility for women, women’s professionalism, the need for a strong work-life balance and boundaries, community service, and the importance of communication and strategic thinking.

Diana is a very generous mentor with her wisdom and expertise, and I am grateful to JVS for being able to work with her.

Extend Federal Unemployment Lifeline

By Claudia Finkel, JVS COO A bipartisan deal to extend emergency federal unemployment insurance died in the Senate on Tuesday, a victim once again, of partisan politics. President Obama has called unemployment benefits a “lifeline,” and he’s right. The term is fitting.

Many of the thousands of clients served each year at the JVS WorkSource Centers in Pacoima, Marina del Rey, West Hollywood and Lancaster rely on unemployment insurance benefits to keep their lights on, keep food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads. These are not “welfare queens” or freeloaders at the government’s expense. These are people like Danielle who took time off to care for a sick relative and returned to a job market that had no place for her. Unemployment sustained her until she maxed out her benefits and faced eviction.

“I had problems getting jobs as a temp,” recalled Danielle who was out of work for two years. “Zero to negative balance in every account. Transportation was limited, not having gas in my car. I ate when I could find food.”

Or take the case of Larry, a camera operator who is now considered overqualified for the few available jobs because he has a college degree. Unemployment enabled him to pay his rent until the computer glitch that delayed the sending of his checks had him on the brink of eviction. “Everybody wants to pay their rent on time. Nobody chooses not to pay their landlord,” Larry said a few days before he was scheduled to lose his unemployment benefits. “Every day, I just keep looking, keep fighting.”

Situations like Danielle’s and Larry’s are anything but rare. Following the Great Recession, the percentage of unemployed workers who were long-term unemployed, having been out of work and still looking for a job for over six months, rose to a peak of 45%. Today that percentage has dropped but still remains at historic levels. For perspective, the percentage of unemployed workers who were out of work for six months of more peaked at 26% following the severe recession of the early 1980s. In December of 2013, that percentage was 37.7%, 4.5 years after the end of the Great Recession.

It is already extremely difficult for the long-term unemployed to find work. With loss of income often comes loss of health insurance. People can no longer afford to make car payments or repairs. If, on top of this, they lose their unemployment benefits and are forced to seek public assistance - welfare and food stamps - the social and psychological effects can be devastating.

As a nonprofit provider, JVS services both the long-term unemployed through our WorkSource Centers and individuals receiving public assistance, who are generally facing multiple barriers to employment.  It is a lot easier to get people back to work through their local WorkSource Center, a vital resource that is free to job seekers.

People receiving unemployment are still looking for work and, most importantly, still consider themselves part of the labor force. This is a critical motivator when an individual is preparing for interviews and meeting with prospective employers.  The loss of unemployment benefits and the temporary safety net these benefits offer can trigger a downward spiral that leads to public assistance. Some people will give up the search and drop out of the labor force entirely because the daily pressures of job hunting, both physical and psychological, are simply overwhelming. The argument that unemployment insurance serves as a disincentive to look for work is nonsense. Joblessness is its own motivation. Ask Larry, Danielle or anybody else you meet on any given day at any WorkSource Center.

There is no question that the impact of political decisions made today will have multi-generational effects. The choice is clear. Congress must keep working to find a bipartisan solution to extend the lifeline that is federal unemployment insurance.