The Ravens took another step in helping to make a lasting difference in the Baltimore community and reverse some of the inequalities, specifically economic in this case, that persist.
Through their Social Justice Program, the Ravens and their players are donating $100,000 to Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF), the team announced Tuesday.
The contribution will support JOTF's work, particularly Project JumpStart, which is a construction training program designed to assist low-wage, low-skill Baltimore City residents, including some with criminal records, find a skilled job in the construction industry.
In the spring of 2018, the National Football League announced that each team would match player contributions up to $250,000 annually for the purposes of establishing a fund to support community improvement, social justice and law enforcement relationships. The Ravens organization and its players have created a $500,000 Social Justice Fund.
This is the second distribution from the Ravens' social justice fund, which now totals $300,000 contributed to the Baltimore community this year. Last week, the Ravens organization and its players used $200,000 to pay part of the cost of providing heat and cooling (HVAC) units to Lakewood Elementary School in Baltimore City.
"As players, we constantly talk about the importance of giving back to our community and the best way to do that," Ravens safety Anthony Levine Sr. stated. "Through our Social Justice Fund, we are honored to partner with JOTF in support of Project JumpStart to assist in the much-needed training and job placement of many deserving people in Maryland."
Project JumpStart is a 14-week pre-apprenticeship construction training program, developed through a partnership between JOTF and Associated Builders and Contractors. Training includes construction math, tool education, safety skills and certifications, and entry-level skills in electrical, plumbing and carpentry.
Participants and graduates receive critical, intensive case management services that include assistance with housing, benefits screenings, legal challenges, resources for financial stability, credit building and supports, and many other services intentionally designed to meet and respond to the unique needs of each student and graduate. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive job placement support, access to a secured loan of up to $2,500 for a personal vehicle, and a set of brand-new industry-approved starter tools.
The program launched 12 years ago and has been such a success in Baltimore that other states and cities are looking to bring Project Jumpstart to their community.
Over the past year, Project JumpStart offered six classes to Baltimore City residents, enrolling 122 participants. Seventy-nine percent of the graduates were placed in industry employment, and 47 graduates are currently enrolled in formal apprenticeships. This year, Project JumpStart enrolled its 1,000th participant and will graduate its 50th class.
"The only way to ensure that our communities are safe and healthy and thriving is when folks are working," said JOTF executive director Caryn York. "When they're not working, they're not able to pull in a living wage where they can support themselves and their families, have transportation to work, buy food, have housing stability.
"Those are the makings of a strong, thriving community. How can we ensure that that can happen in every community in Baltimore City, not just certain ones? We believe it can happen. You just have to think about things a little differently and invest in human capital."
A large chunk of the Ravens' donation will be dedicated to the secured loans program, which helps workers get on their feet and be able to maintain a job, whether by finding transportation to get to the site and/or stable housing. York said they have seen too many people lose out on quality opportunities that could propel them out of the cycle of poverty because they didn't have that initial bump to allow them to do the job.
Many people in our community are living on the edge, barely able to make ends meet. Without a stable, well-paying job, they can be sunk by any unexpected expense – a repair bill, medical bill, ticket, having their car towed or legal fees, for example. And once people are desperate, that is when they sometimes may consider illegal means to secure money quickly.
"The majority of folks in Baltimore City, they don't have a family member they can call on," York said. "They don't have a friend who can give them a couple hundred dollars, whether it be to bail them out of jail or bail them out of their car being towed.
"There are a number of low-wage workers in Baltimore City who lack access to networks of support. Whenever a tragedy or emergency befalls them, they don't have access to help to bring them out."
Additionally, JOTF focuses on advancing policy initiatives that improve the economic conditions, outcomes and opportunities for Maryland low-income, low-skill workers. During the 2018 legislative session, JOTF's policy wins included paid sick and safe leave for full-time workers across the state, reducing financial barriers to college enrollment for GED recipients and eliminating punitive child support enforcement barriers to encourage greater non-custodial parental participation.
"JOTF is thrilled to receive the support of the Baltimore Ravens," York stated. "At JOTF, our unique approach partners program and policy, coupled with data and research, to create sustainable pathways to economic mobility for Maryland's low-wage workers. We remain intentional about transforming the systems that create and perpetuate barriers to education and employment."