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House of Compassion job incentive program already seeing results

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY The House of Compassion, located at 211 W. Church St. in Marshalltown, recently launched a gift card incentive program for participants who find employment or even a better job than the one they currently have.

Almost everyone has heard some version of the saying, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic: “Nobody wants to work anymore.”

Chad Hammar, the executive director of the House of Compassion in Marshalltown, is doing his part to put his clients of able body and able mind back into the workforce with a new program that rewards individuals receiving services from the HOC if they can get a new job — or a better one. The concept is simple: prove that you’ve lasted 60 days, and receive a $100 Walmart or Fareway gift card.

Hammar, who has been with the organization for almost 3 ½ years now, implemented a program called JobPath in collaboration with IowaWORKS, Iowa Valley Continuing Education and TLC Associates, and he’s been happy with the results thus far.

“Our job here is to get clients to believe that they can get either back in the workforce or they can get better paying jobs. That’s our job here, and then once we’ve done that, we can hand them off to the folks whose business it is to get them into jobs,” he said.

In his first two years on the job, Hammar worked with 31 families who no longer need HOC services, but he wanted that number to be higher. The Community Foundation of Marshall County (CFMC) then stepped up to fund the aforementioned incentive that pairs with JobPath.

When he first submitted the application to the foundation, Hammar thought he’d be lucky if they got 25 people to participate, but in the first month plus, they’ve already surpassed that number.

“There’s a long way to go on this. Hopefully they’ll follow through and they’ll do this, but I will tell you that the whole purpose is to then get them into the workforce and they can get used to that. Then they want to keep going with this,” he said.

Office Manager Maryna Salas already had one success story to tell about the incentive, and Hammar said employers and employment agencies have been appreciative of the effort to this point. According to Salas, the first participant is about to hit 60 days in mid-June, and the outcome has “touched her heart.”

While the initial funding is relatively limited, he hopes to come back in a year with “the good problem” of needing more money and offering it to more individuals in the future.

“This JobPath thing, it always takes more than one conversation because if this is the only life you’ve known, coming to House of Compassion, going other places, it’s hard for you to think that your life can be different. So that’s where there’s a lot of coaching involved in this and there’s a lot of trying to instill hope in them, and so it is a challenge and sometimes it takes several conversations,” he said. “But that’s what makes this so worthwhile is when you see the lightbulb go on above their head and they finally believe that, you know, ‘I’m gonna give this thing a try.'”

And going forward, Hammar envisions programs like these becoming part of what the House of Compassion is.

“It’s an investment in people’s lives helping them to (improve). We’re all about dignity here, and I do believe that work can bring dignity to people,” he said. “Any of us in our lives, before you can make a change like that, you need some sort of external thing that gets you thinking that way.”

He estimated the split among those utilizing the incentive as about 60 percent who were formerly unemployed and 40 percent pursuing a better paying job than the one they currently have.

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