HANAC: Doing Anything for Workers

 

HANAC recruits community members for security training at job fair

 

What it takes to succeed in the job market has changed dramatically in recent decades.
 
When HANAC was founded in 1972 as the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, Executive Director John Kaiteris says, the organization saw English proficiency as the main barrier to employment for its immigrant constituency, and focused on ESL classes. Soon, that was no longer enough. Workers needed skills and certifications in specific industries to compete for employment.
 
“You need a package of skills to succeed in this city,” says Kaiteris.
 
As part of the Jobs to Build On program, HANAC has been able to build a reputation as the place to go for employment services.
 
“When other funding sources have backed away, Jobs to Build On has been the consistent lynchpin. It enables everyone in the community to know that the program is there. When you come here, there will be someone to help you,” says Kaiteris.
 
Those community members, when they walk through HANAC’s doors in the diverse neighborhoods of Harlem or Queens, sit with a case manager who assesses what skills they already have, and what support they need to find employment.
 
“Some just need help updating their résumés, while others haven’t worked in many years and need skills training,” says Rita Lopez, HANAC’s Employment and Training Program Director.
 
HANAC has been successful in placing so many local residents into jobs because it has built its training programs around the needs of specific employers, and prepares clients to succeed in the interview process. The organization’s two vocational specialties are security and customer service. It partners with security contractors, law firms, and medical practices to place clients into jobs.
 
For Lopez, the commitment to helping community members get a job offer once meant giving the clothes off her back – literally. When a client was called in for a last minute follow-up interview, but lacked the professional clothes she needed on short notice, Lopez offered hers.
 
“She had two kids and a difficult housing situation. All that was standing between her and the job was a suit, and I had the suit,” says Lopez, who went into the bathroom, changed out of her suit, and gave it to her client. “A colleague ran to the store to buy me a new outfit,” says Lopez.
 
The client got the job, and has had several successful years in the legal industry.
 
HANAC’s relationship with clients is not over when they get a job. The group continues to meet with them monthly, and provides ongoing workshops, to help clients keep their job and get promoted.
 
“Our vision is a community with independent, self-sufficient, productive, and contributing citizens,” says Kaiteris. “Everything we do is enabling individuals and communities to accomplish that.”  


Natalya Karimova: HANAC Success Story

Natalya Karimova discovered HANAC through a presentation at her children’s school, and the offer of help could not have come at a better moment.
 
“At the time, my kids and I were transitioning between shelters,” says Karimova.
 
As an immigrant worker, she was in the process of getting work authorization, but HANAC still welcomed her into the program. Karimova took HANAC’s security guard training course, and as soon as she had her work authorization, the organization sent her on interviews. She was quickly hired, and was able to get a flexible schedule so she could pick up her children after school. A year later, Karimova is working full-time, on day-shift, at a residential building.
 
“It changed my life,” says Karimova. “I was depressed a lot, and going through hard times, not just financially, but emotionally.”
 
“I feel like a totally different person.”
 
She and her children are out of the shelter and have moved into their own apartment.
 
“The kids are extremely happy, now that their mommy is working.”