I spent Friday morning conducting job interviews in a big warehouse – in an inside office with no windows. Sounds dull and not a whole lot of fun, doesn’t it? Well, the opposite is true…it was fantastic and an amazing experience! I interviewed 4 men – all were dressed very nice in a suit and tie and carried a leather portfolio, had resumes that appeared as if they were put together by a professional, and were very well groomed, outspoken, and polite. Their experience ranged, but was quite impressive – one man had 20 years of sales experience and had worked with mentally challenged adults. Another had 18 years of experience in residential and commercial site work and built large custom homes. Another had a variety of general labor and janitorial positions over a 20-year span. The last had years of experience in both retail and production sides of landscaping and increased revenue significantly for the company.

The one similar trait these men had: they were all addicts and were finishing a treatment program at The Healing Place. Some had spent time in jail; 2 had more than one felony and one had several misdemeanors. Probably not what came to mind when reading the previous paragraph.

So you may be wondering why in the world I interviewed these men? They were a part of the CARITAS Works program. I grew up familiar with CARITAS (they provide housing to the homeless) because my church would host a group of CARITAS men for a week at a time. My family and I would go to the church to make the men lunches or play games with them. It was just recently, however, that I learned how much more CARITAS does – and how well they do it! CARITAS Works is a six-week 8-hour a day program that provides intensive and innovative career preparation and job placement for individuals with major barriers to employment. They provide job search skills (career assessment, resume preparation, applications, interview techniques, computer skills, work ethics, professionalism), life skills (communication, conflict management, team building, dealing with change, personal accountability and leadership), and job placement support and follow up (access to computer lab, email address, and resources to support employment, plus one year follow up and support after finding a job).

The men were at the end of their CARITAS Works program – and one of the final steps is for business professionals in the community to conduct mock interviews. Each man goes through two one-on-one interviews, then a panel interview with two interviewers. The men who I interviewed floored me; I have conducted real interviews where the interviewees were not nearly as prepared.  It was truly impressive and really revealed how well run this program is.  While CARITAS certainly gets a great deal of the credit for the development of these men in preparing them for their future, it is truly a testament to each of the men as well! They just needed assistance to overcome their addiction and guidance to focus their attention in a positive direction and in a direction that would further their future and not hinder it. It truly is amazing the great nature, talents, and skill sets that are found at the core when the drugs and/or alcohol are taken away.

Drugs and alcohol are the root of so many negative behaviors – violence, anger, crime, not working, not supporting family, and the list goes on and on.  But when treatment is provided and the addiction is addressed, it is truly amazing what remains! The majority of the time it is bright, intelligent, and talented people who can now be productive members of society, they can work and pay taxes, they can be better mothers or fathers, they can help their children excel in school, and they will not endanger others with their actions while under the influence. Don’t believe me? Call CARITAS (804-358-0964) and ask for a tour – I guarantee you will think differently after going through their facility.

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