Service with a smile

Not even high winds and floodwaters can stop Tom and Julie Mills from volunteering with LifeWorks. Even as they storm-prepped ahead of Hurricane Ian, Tom and Julie accepted an extra assignment to keep LifeWorks participants on track for graduation in November.

We canceled LifeWorks’ Sept. 26 and 28 evening classes because of the storm, but we neither wanted participants to miss scheduled content on résumé preparation nor to need an extra week for a make-up class. We decided to resume classes this week and squeeze in a virtual Wednesday-night session on résumés. When asked whether they would lead this last-minute class in addition to their already-scheduled sessions as LifeWorks instructors, Tom and Julie didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“JP has been our area of ministry for more than 10 years, and we’ll do it for 10 more if they’ll let us,” Julie says.

Since they have served faithfully in nearly every LifeWorks volunteer role, we’ll certainly “let” Tom and Julie continue to serve. Coaching was their first area of service, shepherding a small group each semester through the 36-hour LifeWorks course. Julie participated in a curriculum committee and wrote the LifeWorks lesson on conflict resolution. They served side by side for several years as a team leader and head coach, overseeing the implementation of LifeWorks at individual training sites. Currently, they serve as instructors, presenting LifeWorks material several times each semester.

“When I tell people why I do what I do, I tell them about the concept of ‘thin places,'” Tom says. “When you think about the veil between heaven and earth, there are places where you can feel God’s movement. That’s a thin place, and JP is one of them. In just 12 weeks, you can see God do amazing things in the lives of so many people. Having experienced that first-hand, it’s hard not to keep doing it.”

Julie agrees, adding, “People say, ‘Somebody should do something.’ I say, ‘I’m somebody. I can do something.’ You don’t need any special skills to be a constant in someone’s life for the 12 weeks of LifeWorks.”

You can find out more about volunteer opportunities here.

The JP team is growing

The JP family gained two new members in September. Tony Pitts has joined us as partnership manager, and Brenda Teixeira has accepted the role of philanthropy associate.

Tony brings decades of experience in relationship development, higher education and coaching to this new role at JP. He will focus on developing current and new church partnerships.

“Tony brings a perspective on discipleship and the church’s role in missions that aligns with what we do at JP,” Director of Partnerships Elliott Drake says. “He understands how churches have the opportunity to partner with us to both disciple their members and make a difference in our community.”

Brenda worked for more than 20 years in Christian publishing – and is a LifeWorks graduate. The publishing company she worked for sold its Spanish-language department, and Brenda’s job was eliminated. “I was really lost,” Brenda says. She learned about JP and LifeWorks at a local job fair and graduated in fall 2021. She received three full-time job offers on the same day last summer – and chose JP’s invitation because she wanted to give back. After two months as JP’s program coordinator, Brenda was invited to join the philanthropy team.

“I thank God for bringing Brenda to JP,” Manager of Philanthropy Dina Hernandez says. “She has the skills – and the personal experience — to share our story.”


Stepping onto the path

Technical-training certificate programs through partners such as Valencia College quickly prepare people for jobs in high-demand industries.


New for fall is the Pathways Project, made possible by JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Pathways is a career game-changer for participants who want to pursue technical-skills training.

JP partners such as Valencia College offer technical-skills certificate programs that prepare people for careers in high-demand industries within weeks or months, not years. CareerSource Central Florida, another JP partner, provides tuition vouchers to eligible participants. Neverthless, the immediate need for income can prevent people from pursuing certificate programs. The Pathways Project breaks through this real barrier by awarding a stipend to eligible participants while they are enrolled in a certificate program.

The Pathways stipend, offered for up to three months, can equip men and women to make a short-term education decision that leads to long-term professional growth.

“This award allows participants who were living paycheck to paycheck to not have to worry about missing some shifts in order to return to school,” Director of Operations Melissa Morris says. “They can now prioritize their career and have a new opportunity to provide for their families.”

‘I know God will be there’

LifeWorks grad Carrie has gained confidence in her ability to provide for her family — and in God’s ability to provide for her.


“I thought good things weren’t possible for someone like me,” LifeWorks graduate Carrie says. But God used Jobs Partnership and its network of partners to change Carrie’s thinking – and her life.

“Two years ago, I was sitting in a prison cell, lost and hopeless and sure I had messed up my life beyond repair,” Carrie says. After she rededicated her life to Christ, though, things started to change.

She was released from prison and moved into Lydia House, a transitional home for previously incarcerated women and a ministry of First Baptist Orlando. Through Lydia House, Carrie enrolled in LifeWorks at the West Orange Dream Center training site. 4 Rivers hired Carrie full time, and 1-800-Charity Cars gave Carrie a car at her fall 2021 LifeWorks graduation. Each of these organizations is a valued JP partner. Carrie also works for JP as a part-time site coordinator.

Carrie has her own apartment now, and hopes to regain custody of her son and niece and share her new home with them. She plans to return to school to become a speech-language pathology assistant.

“Even though I know there will be trials and things will be difficult, I know God will be there and provide exceedingly above and beyond what I can ask or imagine,” Carrie says.

Hope Changes Everything

Friends of Jobs Partnership came together to support our community’s job seekers at the 11th annual Faith That Works breakfast fundraiser in April. The event marked JP’s first in-person fundraiser since 2019.

William (top photo, with wife Tomeko and son Marquis) says LifeWorks has benefited three generations of his family. Milly (pictured above, with her daughter) graduated from LifeWorks in 2020, when we pivoted to remote learning during the pandemic.

At the event, LifeWorks graduates William and Milly shared how the training course changed their lives and their families. Milly told the 300-plus people at the breakfast that her LifeWorks experience led to a career-path job in healthcare and the ability for her and her young daughter to move into their own apartment. Participating in a panel discussion with his wife Tomeko, son Marquis and JP President Marc Stanakis, William shared that LifeWorks not only equipped him to provide for his family but made him a better husband and father.

Event sponsors included: ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Cahill Homes, Pinpoint Wealth Partners and UBS Financial Services.

In-kind support came from: 1-800-Charity Cars, Apenberry’s Gardens, Employment Technologies, PUSH Marketing, Orlando Cleaners and

AdventHealth Hires LifeWorks Grads

Fourteen LifeWorks grads are embarking on career-path jobs at AdventHealth Orlando this summer! The healthcare leader has partnered with JP to hire up to 75 LifeWorks grads in 2022 as patient care technicians (PCTs). The full-time job starts at $15 an hour, includes benefits and is a first step on the nursing career path.

JP Graduate Services Manager Donna Kalala says, “This job puts our participants on a career path in the medical field where they can make a huge impact in the AdventHealth community. The PCT pathway also gives our participants stability in their careers — and that stability carries over to their families and in generations to come.”

As part of the recruitment process, JP hosted an all-day basic life-support training class for participants applying for the job (see photo).

AdventHealth’s Central Florida division is a longtime JP partner. JP President Marc Stanakis says, “The staffing shortage in healthcare has created an incredible opportunity for us to reach deeply into our community and upskill the men and women we serve for a career path that will provide economic mobility for years to come. And who better to do that with than our missionally aligned partner AdventHealth?”

LifeWorks Grads Celebrate New Opportunities

LifeWorks spring semester just finished, and more than half of the men and women who graduated from the 36-hour training course already have experienced job-related success. Fifty-seven percent of graduates – 38 people! — report that they’ve found a new job, received a promotion at their current job or enrolled in technical skills training.

Graduates gathered to celebrate family members and friends on May 25 atWashington Shores Church of Christ with a reception and graduation ceremony marked by applause, cheers, laughter – and live music provided by theJones High School Alumni and Community Jazz Band. The 66 graduates include Yanetsy, who says of her LifeWorks experience, “LifeWorks has impacted my life spiritually and professionally. I am looking at myself with a different view.”
Top photo: Graduation opens with a traditional processional. Photo above: Every graduate is recognized and receives a diploma. Photo below: Graduates are equipped to find, get and keep career-path jobs that can sustain themselves and their families.

We are thankful to the many people who make LifeWorks possible, including the dozens ofvolunteers who facilitate the program at training sites across Orange and Seminole counties. They coach participants, lead classes, provide dinner, review resumes and conduct mock interviews. These partners hosted LifeWorks classes this spring:


Jobs Partnership in the News

The Orlando Sentinel featured Jobs Partnership in the Sunday, June 5, issue. Missed the print edition? You can catch the story here:

Program blends scripture, job-training
Resume-building, mock interviews — Bible study?

Pastor Charles Cooper is recounting the biblical woes of Joseph — betrayed, enslaved, accused of rape and wrongfully imprisoned — to a rapt audience on a Tuesday evening in Winter Garden. Despite all the fodder for bitterness, Cooper notes, Joseph is ultimately vindicated and richly rewarded.

“It is the fact that he doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t lie, he doesn’t steal and he doesn’t bend under the pressure that really elevates him,” the pastor says. “Integrity is a critically important part of what happened to Joseph.”

But Cooper isn’t preaching to parishioners. He’s lecturing to a faith-based workforce-training class. And the goal here isn’t so much about saving souls as it is producing good, reliable employees who’ll have the chance to earn a decent paycheck and change their path in life.

“We welcome everyone. We’re very clear about that,” said Marc Stanakis, founder and president of the nonprofit Jobs Partnership of Florida, which runs the classes. “We’re also very clear that we have content that’s biblically based, so you know what you’re getting into. We’re using principles from the Bible to teach people what employers are looking for — like how to have healthy relationships with the boss or, in this lesson, how do you work with integrity? You show up on time. You don’t steal from the supply closet. You put the right hours on your timecard.”

While the concepts may seem simple — even obvious — many of the other lessons taught in the Jobs Partnership’s free 12-week training course, LifeWorks, are foreign to students who’ve been out of the workforce or stuck in minimum-wage positions for years. Some have never written a resume before. Others lack interviewing skills. And many have no idea what types of good-paying jobs are available to them with a little extra training — or how they can get scholarships to pay for that training.

And as employers complain about a dire shortage of workers with basic skills, the Jobs Partnership of Florida has managed to produce nearly 3,000 graduates since 1999 for jobs with such employers as AdventHealth, Home Depot, UPS and Wells Fargo.

“I’ve stayed home for the last 20 years raising a son with autism,” said Patti Wolstenholme, 62, a Clermont resident who enrolled in spring for the Winter Garden classes. “I mean, I hadn’t done a resume in years, and there have been a lot of changes. They helped me with that. We did mock interviews, which helped me to learn to answer questions and get more comfortable with that process again. And it introduced me to a lot of different employers.”

More than anything, she said, it helped her gain confidence. The program acts as a sort of support network so job-seekers feel someone is rooting for them. Three-quarters of the participants are women; more than half are Black or Hispanic. Many, too, already work part-time jobs, trying to piece together a living. Most have no health insurance and nearly all earn less than $20,000 a year.

“Their idea of looking for a job is, ‘Well, I know Walmart’s hiring’ — or McDonald’s or whatever is closest to them — instead of thinking about what would be a good fit based on their interest and skills,” Stanakis said. “We assess them and use that as a foundation for developing a career plan.”

The Jobs Partnership began two decades ago in large part as a response to the end of entitlement programs — aka welfare — and the need to transition recipients into the workforce. It was then buoyed by President George W. Bush’s 2002 initiative giving religious groups the right to compete for federal funding for programs usually carried out by secular nonprofit organizations.

Stanakis, then an executive in the financial services industry, was recruited to figure out how to get local churches involved as a kind of safety net for people as their welfare checks stopped. Attending a conference in Washington, D.C., he learned about a program in Raleigh, N.C., that was pairing churches and businesses to help the poor.

“I thought, ‘This is amazing,’ ” he said.

With a grant from the state, Stanakis helped to build a network of what is now over 46 business partners and volunteers from some 60 churches. And last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit raised over $1.5 million in donations and grants, only 5% of it from the government. The largest single source was individual donors.

“It’s giving so many people in our community an opportunity that they would have never had otherwise,” said Yamille Luna, chief operating officer for AdventHealth Winter Garden and a former human resources executive who has worked closely with the Jobs Partnership. “And for us, it’s almost like [the program] is hiring for you.”

The hospital system has employed about 200 graduates over the years, and recently it began recruiting for patient-care technicians — workers who comfort patients and help with the daily tasks of eating, bathing and using the bathroom. In part, the job was created to address the nursing shortage. The Jobs Partnership has surveyed graduates and helped assess those who are interested. An initial list of 70 candidates has been whittled down to 14. Sandra Lentini is among those who made the final cut.

“Now I am just waiting to hear if I am hired,” said Lentini, 48, a former stay-at-home mom from Chile who has returned to the workforce after a divorce. “I love to take care of people, but I never knew that it could be a job.”

In the program, coaches helped her figure out what sort of work gave her a sense of purpose. They helped her create a resume and learn interviewing skills. And they taught her how to resolve conflicts and manage her finances once she has a steady income.

“I had 100% attendance because I didn’t want to miss anything,” she said. “They were really, really good people, and you can see how important [their faith] is to them. I liked that.”

If she’s hired, Lentini also will have the chance to advance. AdventHealth will cover tuition for nursing school, Luna said. In fact, the Jobs Partnership is able to help connect students with a range of advanced training courses paid for by local sponsors and employers.

“It’s really a long-term fix in our low-wage economy,” Stanakis said. “Our donors don’t want to see temporary assistance. They want to see changed lives. And the same for our participants. They don’t want handouts; they want to make it on their own.”

‘I had this idea about giving cars away’

1-800-Charity Cars annually gives some $6 million in used cars to people in need. The Longwood-based nonprofit operates in all 50 states, providing donors with a tax deduction and providing people – including more than 200 LifeWorks graduates – with transportation that equips them to change their lives. Most recently, JP President Marc Stanakis presented LifeWorks grad Noel with the keys to a new-to-him car at the spring graduation.

Top photo: Every member of this 2008 LifeWorks cohort, pictured with Charity Cars founder Brian Menzies, got a job at AdventHealth and received a car. Photo above: At the spring 2022 graduation, Noel received keys to the car that will get him to and from work.

When you donate a vehicle, you can specify that JP benefits. A car in good working condition can go to a LifeWorks grad, or JP can receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the car’s sale at auction or salvage.

“You need a car in most parts of the country,” Charity Cars founder and President Brian Menzies says. “Transportation is a major hurdle to gaining and keeping employment.”

Brian owned a successful car dealership but says in the mid-1990s he felt empty and lacked purpose. “I had this idea about giving cars away,” he says, a small way to help people that grew large enough that he ultimately closed his business to focus exclusively on the nonprofit.

“I don’t know anyone with a bigger heart than Brian!” Marc Stanakis says. “He started Charity Cars because he had struggled with employment and transportation earlier in his life. You need a job to get a car, and you need a car to get a job. We both understand that — that’s why our partnership has worked so well for the past 23 years.”

Brian revels in the joy and hope Charity Cars brings to people in need. “I’m the luckiest guy. It’s the most fun in the world. When you give people a car, they scream, they cry, they praise Jesus – it’s a life-changing event.”

Meet Elliott Drake

We are excited to introduce you to our new JP team member, Elliott Drake, who is serving as Director of Partnerships. He comes to us with years of experience in relationship building and connecting to community organizations. Prior to Jobs Partnership, Elliott and his family lived in Colorado while he attended Denver Seminary and worked at Mission Training International. They returned to Central Florida where his wife Lindsay grew up, and Elliott worked as a Project Manager for Westbrook Service Corporation. He is excited about empowering people to live more fully as God has beautifully created them to be and has a desire for everyone involved with JP to receive God’s grace and to participate in God’s mission in our community.

Elliott and Lindsay have a daughter (11) and two sons (9 and 7) and will celebrate 15 years of marriage this summer. He is thankful for tremendously loving and supportive grandparents, aunts and uncles. Elliott enjoys nature and his hobbies include sports, architecture and exploring other lands and cultures.

We are blessed to have Elliott join us as we grow our network of Employer Partners, so if you are a business owner, hiring manager or part of a company that is seeking to provide job opportunities, we invite you to reach out to Elliott to learn more!