New Community provides volunteer opportunities for individuals in the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP), which is a core work requirement for public assistance in the state of New Jersey. Two CWEP workers recently found permanent employment at NCC because of their work ethic and commitment to the mission.
Both Denise Felix and Tracey Coleman volunteered at the Family Resource Success Center before becoming NCC employees. Family Resource Success Center Director Joann Williams-Swiney said she saw that they would benefit NCC and help fulfill its mission: to help residents of inner cities improve the quality of their lives to reflect individual God-given dignity and personal achievement.
“These are two young ladies that understand that hard work and determination can take you a long way,” Williams-Swiney said. “They both just simply embody the mission as we hope all of our employees do.”
Felix began volunteering at New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI). While there, she saw the flyer for free tax preparation offered at the Family Resource Success Center. She had been a tax preparer for many years and often volunteered to help others with their taxes. Felix went to Williams-Swiney to see if she could be involved in the tax preparation program. She passed the necessary test and began volunteering at the Family Resource Success Center for tax season. The days she wasn’t preparing taxes, she continued volunteering at NCCTI.
When tax season was over, Williams-Swiney successfully got Felix an extension so she could continue to volunteer through CWEP as she searched for permanent employment. So Felix volunteered at the Family Resource Success Center full-time. She loved the work.
“I love everything about the Resource Center and what they do to help people,” Felix said. “For me, helping people, that was just so gratifying that I was doing something that was really making a difference in people’s lives.”
During her job search, Felix saw an opening for a Resident Services Coordinator with NCC. She applied and after meeting with Resident Services Director Donnette Burrowes-Williams, she was offered the full-time job at Gardens Senior, which she started in July 2019.
“Denise is a vibrant, energetic and funny individual who’s easy to work with. Her bubbly personality quickly transcends to her residents and they love her for that because she puts a smile on their faces every time they enter her office,” Burrowes-Williams said. “Denise is very passionate about her work and goes above and beyond to ensure the Gardens Senior residents’ health is intact, they receive services that are beneficial to their needs and most importantly utilizing resources that will improve their lives. Denise is a great addition to the Resident Services team.”
Felix, who lives in Newark with her youngest daughter who is 13, has experience with seniors. She’s been a home health aide and a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
“I love seeing the seniors happy. I love making a difference in their life,” Felix said. “I really love coming aboard and helping them and advocating for them. A lot of them need that.”
While Felix was volunteering at the Family Resource Success Center, she helped train Coleman, who also came to New Community through CWEP.
“Denise helped Tracey grow,” Williams-Swiney said. “Denise grew out into her present position and Tracey kept growing until she reached the point where everyone noticed the hard work she was doing and she landed a job at New Community.”
Coleman started volunteering at the Family Resource Success Center in June 2019. She, like Felix, assisted community members with a variety of services, including utility assistance, shelter placement and back rent payments.
When her six months with CWEP was coming to an end, Coleman began searching for jobs within NCC online. She saw an opening for a Retention Specialist at NCCTI and applied for the position. She met with NCCTI Director Rodney Brutton and was offered the job, which she accepted. She officially became an employee in February.
As a Retention Specialist, Coleman follows up with NCCTI students who have missed class to see what might be going on and encourage them to return. She also reaches out to graduates to see if they have found employment or need assistance in that area. The transition was smooth because she was already helping NCCTI students while volunteering at the Family Resource Success Center.
Because her current position is part-time, Coleman will still spend time volunteering at the Family Resource Success Center. Her goal is to eventually find a full-time position, but she loves her job, especially the connections she’s able to make with the students.
“It makes them want to come to school,” Coleman said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do, get them in and out so they can be in a working environment.”
Coleman has seen a lot of positive changes in her life recently. She was at St. Rocco’s Emergency Family Shelter before getting an apartment for herself, her two toddler sons and their father.
“First I got my apartment. Then I got the job. And everything just started falling into place and I was so happy,” she said.
Brutton said NCCTI staff members look forward to working with Coleman.
“We’re pleased to have Tracey on board,” he said. “She’s someone who understands NCCTI.”
While Coleman hopes her position within NCC will expand to full-time, she is enjoying her new role. She gets excited coming to work each day.
“People are like, ‘Why are you so happy?’ Because I love my job,” Coleman said. “When you love doing something, you’re just going to be happy every day.”