In the bustling city of Portland, Kaleb found himself standing at the crossroads of despair and opportunity. The journey from Nashville to Los Angeles and finally to Portland drained every ounce of financial stability he once possessed. The move, aimed at providing a better life for his family, had left them penniless.

As Kaleb settled into the unfamiliar city, the stark reality of their financial predicament loomed large. The weight of providing for his family weighed heavily on his shoulders, and hope seemed like a distant memory. It was at this juncture that Kaleb’s sister introduced him to a lifeline – the Here For Portland paid worker program.

The Here for Portland paid worker program –funded by Worksystems via the American Rescue Plan Act, and supported by Portland Community College — is a pandemic-recovery initiative designed to support small, local businesses by covering the wages of a new employee for their first 300 hours on the job.

The program offered a glimmer of hope in the form of a $1,000 stipend, a beacon that sparked a renewed determination within Kaleb; and an opportunity at TOAST, a local wood and leather products manufacturer. The promise of financial assistance motivated him to enroll and complete the required 300 hours as swiftly as possible. When two workers left their positions at TOAST, and Kaleb seized the chance to learn their roles, positioning himself favorably for future employment.

However, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. The $17-per-hour wage provided by the program proved insufficient for Kaleb to sustain himself and his family in the expensive city of Portland. The unexpected taxation of the stipend added to his financial woes. Undeterred, Kaleb pressed on, confronting each obstacle with resilience and determination.

The culmination of Kaleb’s perseverance was realized when he secured a full-time, benefited position at TOAST. The transformation was profound, and Kaleb emerged not just as an employee but an integral part of the team.

In reflecting on his journey, Kaleb — now a Social Media Coordinator Intern at TOAST and a PCC student — expressed gratitude for the Here For Portland program. “I had no hope or belief in myself when I arrived in Portland,” he said. “Moving forward, I feel more solid because of this program. I feel like I’ve got my foundation back. That’s a start, and thank you so much!”

Benjamin Page, the owner of Modern Provisions, also attested to the program’s impact, highlighting the 600 hours of labor that helped their store weather the storm of the pandemic. The program not only benefited the workers but also revitalized the neighborhood, turning an abandoned property into a thriving community hub.

Kaleb’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of programs like Here For Portland. In the face of adversity, he found not only employment but a renewed sense of purpose and stability, proving that with support and determination, one can overcome even the most formidable challenges.

This story appears courtesy of Portland Community College. To get connected with the Here for Portland paid worker program, click here.

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