Keeping People Working

Thursday, November 20, 2014


(Left) A Resource Coordinator in Vermont works with a Sheraton Hotel Manager to make sure his staff members are connected to resources that promote financial stability. (Right) An employee at Rhino Foods makes their famous cookie dough ice cream for Ben & Jerry's. Rhino Foods is an impressive organization that embraces the Working Bridges program. This is a sweet relationship with sweet results!

Contributor: Tony Gonzalez, Vice President of Community Development at United Way Fox Cities

In late October, I had the good fortune of visiting the United Way in Burlington, Vermont to learn about how their community is helping people attain financial stability. Their Working Bridges program, built from the Bridges Out of Poverty community support program is a model of how communities come together with a shared commitment to reduce poverty. 

Simply put, this program is about a community recognizing the delicate nature of poverty. It is about understanding that individuals who are making $10-$18 per hour are one car accident, medical procedure or home repair away from being thrown into a financial tailspin. It is about human services and businesses working together to build supports around those individuals in low- to moderate-paid positions so they can retain their jobs and financial stability. It is also about employers retaining good people who are able to maintain work attendance and productivity.

This program is a great example of bringing people from across the community to collaborate and make a difference. Employers, credit unions and the United Way are investing in Resource Coordinators who come to the workplace and connect people with "income supports" (e.g. food, clothing, transportation, child care, housing, state benefits, etc.), provide short- term low interest loans, and education to prevent financial crises and keep people working.

Communities invest in many ways to address complex issues like poverty and much can be learned from staying connected with best practices like Working Bridges. As an organization, United Way Fox Cities continues to work to keep informed on innovative practices and we invite you to do the same at the links below. Working Bridges is an employer collaborative dedicated to improving workplace productivity, retention, advancement and financial stability for employees. Aha! Process's Bridges Out of Poverty community support program provides a family of concepts, workshops, and products to help employers, community organizations, social service agencies, and individuals address and reduce poverty in a comprehensive way. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Rhino Foods is a certified B Corporation, helping to lead a global movement to redefine success in business.