CAMDEN, NJ—The three-story single family home standing at 543 State St. is fairly unremarkable in the North Camden neighborhood. It has a faded brick facade, a cement porch and a burnt orange front door. Next to that door hangs a small wooden sign with “Hopeworks” singed across.
However once inside, one immediately notices walls filled from floor to ceiling with pictures, a computer lab packed with young adults learning how to build websites, giant cardboard boxes on the floor and the smell of a freshly baked cake — and that’s just the first floor.
Since it opened its doors on State Street in 2000, Hopeworks N’ Camden has helped young men and women ages 16 to 25 overcome obstacles and adversity to figure out their career paths through technology training, academic reinforcement and life readiness programming.
Come Monday, thanks to the help of a $74,000 inaugural grant from the Impact 100 South Jersey initiative, along with other grants and donations, the nonprofit will be moving into a new 6,660-square-foot home on Market Street.
Impact100 South Jersey is a local collective of a global women’s giving initiative that began this fall to support nonprofit organizations in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Cumberland counties. The global initiative's model is to have each member contribute $1,000 annually in an effort to raise enough for a $100,000 grant. In its first year, Impact 100 South Jersey was able to recruit 74 members from September to December.
“In our pilot year, we were pretty happy about that,” said Kyle Ruffin, Impact 100 South Jersey founding member. Ruffin said that over the spring, volunteers vetted the 23 nonprofit organizations that applied for the grant, and at its annual member meeting on June 26, the 74 members voted to award Hopeworks its inaugural grant.
There are dozens of Impact100s throughout the United States and several more in Australia, including one in Philadelphia, which awarded its annual $100,000 grant to Hopeworks in early June as well.
According to Ruffin, Impact 100 South Jersey members were impressed with Hopeworks with trauma-informed approach to job training, the fact that they were creating a pipeline of professionally skilled employees for the region, and “Hopeworks does not view poverty and violence as a roadblock.”
“We feel crazy honored and fortunate to have won both, we still can’t believe it ourselves,” said Hopeworks Executive Director Dan Rhoton.
Rhoton said that the new facility will allow them to accomplish two important things, the first being able to double the number of young people they can help find jobs.
“We have young people who want to do something with their lives, we got employees that want to hire them —we’re the problem, we’re the bottleneck — and these grants will help us change that,” said Rhoton.
The second goal the new facility allows Hopeworks to accomplish is to help its trainees get used to working in an office like setting. Right now they work in a cramped, well-worn old home and while its warm and inviting, it's not like the offices of the companies that hire the Hopeworks trainees like Subaru, American Water or Cooper Hospital.
Ruffin said the Impact 100 South Jersey has started 2019 recruitment, and hopes double its members to award $150,000 next year to a deserving nonprofit. For more information, visit http://impact100sj.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.