What an Outstanding Trip (Around the Diamond) This Has Been!

All good things must come to an end, including May 2015. Our hometown Los Angeles Dodgers finished the month with 32 home runs, equaling the team's total for April and still good enough to lead the National League. Each of those 32 May home runs meant $1,000 for JVS thanks to the generosity of the Daniel's Jewelers Trip Around the Diamond feature and the Howard and Stephanie Sherwood Foundation.The total contribution will be $32,000

We had grand slams and game winners, games with multiple home runs and the thunderous arrival of rookie center fielder Joc Pederson who easily led the team with 9 home runs in May.

Here's the final tally by player. Thanks once again Dodgers, Daniel's Jewelers and Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood for your parts in making May a magical month!

1. Joc Pederson: 9 home runs

2. Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal, Alex Guerrero: 4 home runs each

3. Andre Ethier and Jimmy Rollins: 3 home runs each

4. Adrian Gonzalez: 2 home runs

5. Scott Van Slyke, Howie Kendrick, Enrique Hernandez: 1 home run each.

Total: 32 home runs

Finishing May Trips Around the Diamond in St. Louis

All good things must end, and the Dodgers' May bombs will conclude during a three game weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. Yes, he same $#@!! Cardinals who have knocked the Boys in Blue out of the playoffs the past two seasons. It has been hugely entertaining being on home run watch and knowing that each Dodger blast means another $1,000 for a nonprofit agency - JVS L.A. - that helps so many different people in so many ways. Thanks to the generosity of Daniel's Jewelers and the Howard and Stephanie Sherwood Foundation, JVS has been the May beneficiary of the Daniel's Jewelers Trip Around the Diamond feature.

As these posts have regaled, the Dodger hitters have certainly done their part. After swatting 32 home runs in 21 games in April, they came back to blast 30 so far in May. It would be, well, smashing if the team could slug a few more in the final three games and eclipse the April total, but 30 certainly is not shabby.

We have encouraged our digital followers to get in on the action, offering a Dodgers/JVS surprise pack to the individual who correctly guesses the total number of home runs hit in May. You have until midnight tonight (Thursday) PDT to enter your guess at https://www.facebook.com/JVSLosAngeles. (And for all those of you who appear to be randomly entering guesses like 29 or 22, c'mon folks, pay attention! We're at 30. You've already lost!)

Eclipsing the 32 April threshold will not be easy. As effortless as people like Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson sometimes make it seem, hitting home runs is no cakewalk. You need power. You need the right pitch thrown by the right pitcher under the right circumstances. You may need luck. For all their April and May power, the Dodgers hit one home run in a seven-game span from May 14 to 21 including five consecutive homer-less games.

These things can get weird. JVSWorks predicted a veritable slew of bombs for a three game series played at hitter-friendly Coors Field May 8-10. Did we get them? We did not. One measly home run in two games, plus a rain out.

The team will face a trio of sincerely tough customers in Friday starter John Lackey (who has given up 3 home runs to date), Michael Wacha (4) and Carlos Martinez

(7). The Cardinals as a team have given up 32 home runs, 3rd fewest in the National League. Then again, they'll be going up against a lineup that has hit 62 home runs, tops in the league.

Barring something hugely unforeseen, the team's May home run champ will end up being the aforementioned Pederson who has ripped 8. Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero have each clubbed 4.

We'll wrap things up once the calendar turns to June. Until then, Go Blue!

#homeruns4JVS

#ITFDB

On to San Francisco Following a (Hopefully) Brief Power Outage

Hey Dodgers! Where’s the power! One minute the team is sailing along, bashing round-trippers left, right and center, and then something happens and, for the next two days, nobody leaves the yard.

The last home run hit by a Dodger in the month of May was Friday when Jimmy (J-Roll) Rollins slammed a solo shot to back Clayton Kershaw’s 100th career win, an eventual 6-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

That makes 22 home runs for May, meaning $22,000 for JVS as part of the Daniel’s Jewelers Trip Around the Diamond feature. It’s been a sweet month so far, before the weekend power outage.

For the next two games, there was not a homer to be slugged at Dodger Stadium, at least none hit by the Boys in Blue. This development proved a little bit inconvenient since we asked our loyal Facebook followers to predict how many four-baggers (that’s home runs) would be hit in Sunday’s series finale against Colorado.

The guesses ranged from 1 to 5. Nobody – and we Blue boosters thank you for your optimism - guessed 0. But that’s how many were hit even though the Dodgers prevailed in a tight 1-0 victory.

So off we go to the City by the Bay. The Dodgers/JVS Surprise Pack  giveaway mini challenge now carries over to Tuesday’s game against our hated rivals, the San Francisco Giants.

So whoever entered a guess for Sunday’s Rockies game…your prediction still stands for the matchup against the Giants. If anyone new wants to get in on the action and predict a number, please do so at our Facebook page.

And here are some stats to chew on...

The team will be taking aim at veteran right hander Tim Hudson who has a record of 1-3 and an earned run average of 4.57. He has given up 8 home runs in 45 innings so far in 2015. This will be Hudson’s first start this year against the Dodgers.

A few of our bashers have seen Hudson before. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has two career home runs against Hudson. Yasmani Grandal has 1, the aforementioned Jimmy Rollins has 3. Yasiel Puig has 2, but Puig is injured and won’t be playing Tuesday.

Give us your predictions everyone, and go Dodgers!

#ITFDB, #homeruns4JVS

A Mid-May Report from Home Run Central

We have reached the 12th of May and the Los Angeles Dodgers are still slugging away, maybe not quite as prodigiously as they did in April and to start the month, but nobody at JVSWorks is complaining. To recap, for every home run hit by a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers - home or away - in the month of May, Daniel's Jewelers and the Howard and Stephanie Sherwood Foundation will donate $1,000 to JVS. You can hear Dodgers announcer Rick Monday on I Heart Radio talk about the Trip Around the Diamond sponsored by Daniel's Jewelers after every round-tripper.

Through 31 games, the Boys in Blue have hit a Major League-leading 49 home runs, including 17 in the month of May. Not too shabby when you consider that Yasiel Puig has been injured since April while former Dodger bombers Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp are playing for other teams.

But who needs Kemp and Ramirez when we've got those slugging J-men Joc Pederson and Justin Turner. Unlikely power from unlikely sources, right? Pederson's a rookie, albeit a highly touted one. The kid has been on fire, slugging 5 home runs in May including a grand slam on May 1 and two home runs in a single game vs the Brewers on May 6. Turner, a jack-of-all-positions journeyman, had never previously hit more than 4 home runs in an entire season before joining the Dodgers. He hit 7 in 2014 and - with Pederson - is pacing the home run assault with 4 in May. And he's not even in the lineup every day.

 

We've had a few unlucky breaks. The weather gods were not in a cooperative mood over the May 8-10 weekend, forcing the Friday game vs the Colorado Rockies to be concluded after 5 innings and necessitating the rain-related cancellation of Saturday's game. So that's about 13 innings that we lost at hitter friendly Coors Field.

But the excitement has far outweighed the setbacks. Baseball fans tend to go nuts over home runs whether $1,000 donations are attached to them or otherwise, and the Dodgers have given us some dramatics with their firepower. How about Yasmani Grandal hitting a walk-off game winning home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to tie a ribbon around the team's 1-0 victory over Arizona? How about Grandal coming back a few days later to hit two 3-run shots in the same game, driving in 8 runs as the Dodgers mauled Milwaukee?

JVSWorks was in the house on May 1 to see Turner, Pederson and Andre Ethier literally launch the campaign with one homer apiece. We returned to Chavez Ravine Monday to see the team take it to the Miami Marlins in the start of a 7-gasme homestand. For the majority of that game, it was looking like the team would not be contributing to the home run tally. Then, wouldn't you know it, bottom of the 9th with the team down one run, Scott Van Slyke comes to the plate and powers a 3-run shot over into the Left Field Pavilion for another dramatic walk-off win!

You will be hearing about a couple more Trip Around the Diamond mini challenges very shortly. For your quick and easy reference, here's where things stand.

Total home runs for May through May 11: 17

 

Home run leaders for May:

Pederson: 5

Turner: 4

Grandal: 3

Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Jimmy Rollins, Scott Van Slyke, AlexGuerrero: 1 each.

Remaining games in May: 18, 12 at Dodger Stadium, 6 on the road.

#homeruns4JVS, #ITFDB.

Take the JVS 5-10 Home Run Challenge!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we're inviting all Dodgers fans to get in on the JVS 5-10 challenge. Thanks to Daniel's Jewelers and the Trip Around the Diamond Feature, JVS gets $1,000 for every home run hit by a Dodger player in the month of May. The Boys in Blue have responded with their bats, powering 7 round-trippers in the first four games of May:

Joc Pederson: 3 homers (including his first career grand slam)

Justin Turner: 2 (including the first home run of the month)

Andre Ethier: 1

Yasmani Grandal: 1 (a 13th inning walk-off shot!)

 

To recap, we're at 7 home runs. So look into your crystal ball, all you JVS Dodger fans, and tell us...who's going to hit home run #10? And when?

#ITFDB

#homeruns4JVS

"Jacks" for Jobs -- Dodger Home Runs in May will Benefit JVS

We interrupt our usual jobs related blogstream to say a few (hundred) words about baseball. Specifically Dodger Baseball.

More specifically, home runs hit as part of Dodger baseball by Dodger players.

Have I lost anybody yet? Bear with me. There is a connection to the work of JVS, and here it is: Thanks to Daniel’s Jewelers and the Howard and Stephanie Sherwood Foundation which has designated JVS as the nonprofit that will receive $1,000 for each home run hit by the Boys in Blue during the month of May.

It’s called the Daniel’s Jeweler’s Trip Around the Diamond Feature, and it was started by the company’s Chairman Emeritus Howard Sherwood and his wife, Stephanie, five years ago. The Sherwoods and Daniel’s Jewelers have given away more than $525,000 to more than a dozen specially designated charities in the L.A. area.

The Dodgers have helped in this endeavor, of course.

Yours truly has been a serious Dodgers fan since childhood, so when I learned that for the next 31 days, JVS’s fortunes would be tangentially linked to those of his favorite sports team, well, it’s blue skies all around.

Now if anyone had asked me at the beginning of the 2015 campaign to predict the home run output of the Dodgers in May - or any month of the season, for that matter - I would not have predicted anything close to a windfall. The Dodgers traded outfielder Matt Kemp (who slugged 25 home runs in 2014) to San Diego and let shortstop Hanley Ramirez sign with the Boston Red Sox. Both players are off to pretty decent starts with their new teams with a healthy Ramirez slugging away at Fenway.

The 2015 Dodgers? Oh, they were expected to contend for the playoffs, but not mash, with veterans like Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez complementing the output of Yasiel Puig and new center fielder Joc Pederson.

Puig hurt his hamstring and has only hit two home runs so far. His fellow outfielder, Carl Crawford, has one. It figured to be a power-light start to the season for the Dodgers, right?

Wrong.

Leading all Major Leagues teams in home runs for the month of April are none other than your Los Angeles Dodgers who swatted 32 long balls in a mere 21 games, 12 of which were played in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.  The season started on April 6 and contained four off days. Only imagine what amount of power the team might have supplied had they had a full month’s worth of games!

How have we accomplished this? It begins with Adrian Gonzalez who hit five home runs in the first three games of the season and finished the month with 8. Cuban reserve Alex Guerrero has walloped five home runs in 26 at bats. Pederson has 4, Andre Ethier and Kendrick 3 apiece. The team has collected them in bunches, hitting three in a  single inning of a 7-0 victory over Colorado at Dodger Stadium on April 19 and another three in the first inning of the April 29 victory over the Giants.

For JVS’s sake, here’s hoping they have saved some firepower for later. In May, there will be 29 Dodger games, 16 at home. As a nice little bonus, May 8-10, we get a three game series at Coors Field in Denver, where the air is thin and balls leave the yard faster than  pizza slices at a Little League party.

Keep an eye on JVSWorks and our Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates and mini challenges as the Dodgers power their way through May!

Seeking Workers for the Slime Line -- Icicle Seafoods Returns to the AV

The work is not glamorous. It is repetitive, sometimes monotonous, smelly and hot. You are working for hours on end processing fish on what in the fishing industry is known graphically – but correctly - as the “slime line.” Things don’t get much any more exciting during your off duty hours either. Cell phone reception is basically nil and what down time you have, you will likely spend eating or sleeping.

In their effort to recruit more than 700 summer workers for fish-processing jobs in Alaska, HR staff from Icicle Seafoods want there to be no misconception about how these months will unfold.

“You don’t want to go up there with any preconceived notions that things are going to be better than they are, or that it’s an adventure,” said Annmarie Todd, Icicle Seafoods Director of Recruitment. “It’s just a job.”

But it’s a job that pays $8.75 per hour and $13.13 for overtime with meals, room and board provided. It’s a job that lots of people want, particularly those facing long term unemployment and harsh economic conditions in the Antelope Valley.

People like James, a client of JVS’ General Relief Opportunities of Work (GROW) program. James has worked a number of security jobs around the Southern California and Las Vegas areas. He has worked in shoe stores, hospitals and for Metrolink. Now he needs a more stable living situation, a better car and the ability to provide for his 6 year old son.

“I need the money, but I also just need something different to experience, something new,” said James following his interview during an Icicle job fair at Antelope Valley College. “The interview went well, and I know they’re going to call me. I’m ready to get my plane ticket and leave right now.”

“I definitely think there are some challenges, but I’m willing to overcome those challenges and try something new,” agreed Elesse, another GROW client who has had difficulty finding work as a certified medical assistant.  “It will be good to get out of the area. I don’t have anything lined up for this summer, so why not.”

In the summer of 2014, JVS Lancaster GROW program sent more than 50 workers to Icicle's facilities in Larsen Bay. The company was so impressed with their new workers that they have partnered again with JVS GROW, along with Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), America’s Job Center of California, and L.A. County Department of Public and Social Services on recruiting events to be held throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys in April and May.

The fish processing positions both on boats and in land plants are entry level. Workers who return for multiple seasons and successfully complete their contracts can expect to get perks like better shifts and higher positions within what Todd calls the “slime line hierarchy.”

“When there’s no fish available, people will be called up and they’ll say, ‘Hey, do you want to clean the underside of this thing?” or “Do you want to go down to the engine room and count rags,’” says Todd. “ We want to keep our returning people and attract as many quality workers as we can. We are kind of an entry level company, and if people can complete a contract or two with us, we help them get jobs in the Bering Sea.”

Todd and Tammy French, Executive Vice President Human Resources/Organization Development for Icicle Seafoods, both raved about the workers who came out of the Antelope Valley. They were especially impressed by the work of the GROW team’s pre-screening and preparing of candidates. They expect to return to the Antelope Valley on a regular basis to recruit for summer and winter fishing and crab season.

“What's great about our partnership with JVS GROW is that your agency's mission and your values are all about helping people with their lives by getting meaningful work," added fellow Icicle Seafoods Recruiter Tammy French. "We are just excited to be the extension of that."

295,000 New Jobs in February -- Next post-Recession Benchmark, wage gains?

We try to remain if not always optimistic, certainly realistic and clear-headed in the face of conflicting evidence.The numbers say one thing; the people in our WorkSource Centers say something else. We know that as far as the U.S. Department of Labor is concerned, the Great Recession is over, has been since somewhere in 2009. We know that jobs are coming back, too slowly perhaps, but 295,000 new jobs in February is nothing to sneeze at. That's an average of 288,000 new jobs over the last three months according to the Wall Street Journal which had forecast a gain of 240,000 new jobs and unemployment rate of 5.4% in February.

This is encouraging news ... unless you happen to be one of those people who do not have a job, but you want one. We further know there are still far too many people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. They are classified as the long-term unemployed and their numbers are hovering around 2.7 million people. We also know that the encouraging numbers must be tempered by the fact that individuals continue to leave the labor force. These people want to work, but have essentially given up on finding a job, so they are not counted in the labor force within in the unemployment tally.

The overall participation rate - representing those who either have a job or want one - is 62.8%. Here's the Wall Street Journal's take on that:

"(The participation rate) remains near levels last seen in the late 1970s, in part due to baby boomers reaching retirement age. A stronger labor market could also draw discouraged workers who had given up on their job searches back into the mix. So far, there’s little sign that’s happening."

With the national unemployment rate at a Great Recession low of 5.5% and with the number of added jobs increasing steadily, much of the discussion is turning now to wage growth, or lack thereof.

Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers ticked up to $24.78 for February, a 2% increase over Feb. of 2014, but not a sign that the supposedly recovery economy is keeping pace. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said that there are "perhaps hints" of wage growth, but no increases of significance.Speaking in the L.A. Times, Gus Fauchner, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group, calls wage growth "the missing piece of the labor market puzzle."

Indeed.

But on a certain level, there are a few pieces still missing. Make that a few hundred thousand pieces.

As much as JVSWorks support the ability of all individuals to make a fair, living wage, it is not so easy to shift the focus of the conversation away from the people who need jobs to those who are employed.

Let's see what developments March and the months ahead hold on this front.

JVS BankWork$™ -- 50 Classes and Counting

In December, the latest group of trained bank tellers receive their diplomas, pose for photographs, hug their family members and move off into the recruitment room to meet with the representatives from partnering banks and financial institutions, most of which have actual jobs they need to fill. You’ve heard this story before? Of course you have. It has been told and retold for the past eight and a half years ever since the first JVS BankWork$™ class graduated in November of 2006.

Fast forward to 2014 and the December 17 class which happened to be graduating class number 50.

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50 classes. A good solid number, right? An achievement worth noting, and that is precisely what the Los Angeles Business Journal did when banking beat writer  Matt Pressberg reported the milestone, making note of the fact that BankWork$ - which currently operates in Los Angeles in Seattle - is in the process of expanding to other cities throughout the United States.

Here are some equally impressive numbers.

In the program’s history, there have been 1,215 enrollments, 876 graduates, and 715 placements. Given that many BankWork$ students have overcome major obstacles to make it into the program, to graduate, to be offered a job and to keep it, that data is a testament to a program that changes lives.

But there are no guarantees. BankWork$ administrators maintain rigorous standards for who they will accept, and not everyone who starts the program will complete it. Not only are these students facing obstacles that prevent them from getting a job, even committing to and completing a rigorous eight-week training program is challenging.

Students are single parents, former foster care youth, and recently-arrived immigrants who might still be learning English. Other BankWork$ students have included recently returned U.S. veterans and people who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. Many have experienced extreme poverty or are holding down a job or taking night classes while simultaneously taking BankWork$. Some commute up to 100 miles round trip to take the class.

At the graduation, the bank recruiters hear a brief introduction to each student which provides a bit of detail about who this person is, his past professional experience and why s/he will be every bit an asset to whichever bank hires her. We hear a little bit about some of their challenges, but only enough to scratch the surface of who these people are and what they have faced.

To learn more, one needs to speak to them.

JVSWorks attended to the first day of class for class #51 at EXPO Center, which happened to be the same day that the photographer from the Los Angeles Business Journal was shooting a picture to accompany the article about the 50thclass.

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During the lunch break, we spoke to five BankWork$ students, one of whom had tried to take the class two years ago, but who left the program after she was continuously tardy. (All of the names of the students quoted have been changed to protect their privacy).

“I didn’t have a vehicle then, but I have one now,” said Leslie. “Right now I am homeless and I’m trying to get my life on track. Basically this is one of my last chances to make a career for myself.”

Shannon learned about BankWork$ in 2012, but was told she did not have enough experience. Three years and plenty of cash-handling experience later, she is in the class and picturing a bright career in banking. It will represent a major step from the work she does at a restaurant, but it’s a step that Shannon wants to make.

“It’s like I see my life just flashing before me and I’m at the top of the top of the chain,” Shannon says. “I have on a nice business suit and I’m picturing myself as a manager, helping out the customers, making sure the clients and my workers are happy I can see this as a big opportunity for me to move forward.”

Jennifer is up front about her history in the foster care system and about living in transitional housing. She came through the JVS Youth Services Program, earning a summer job at Marshall’s. Currently unemployed, Jennifer is taking night classes at El Camino College during her BankWork$ training.

Both for her interview with Marshall’s and for BankWork$m, Jennifer was told that she would have to make some adjustments to her appearance. Green hair and lots of visible tattoos tend not to go over well in the banking world.

“I really want to succeed in this program and when I am really determined, I won’t stop until I get there,” Jennifer says.

Congratulations to class #50 and watch this space for updates on the progress of Class #51.