Foundation teams with gaming properties to put Las Vegans to work
Work — and the dignity it brings — is the simple, noble calling card of the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT), the Las Vegas-owned and operated nonprofit organization founded by Janet Frasier Blumen in 1997.
In this column, FIT’s collaboration with the Las Vegas tourism sector is laid out by its program director, Jennifer Casey. A licensed social worker who earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from UNLV and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California, Casey is passionate about helping formerly incarcerated people and, in 2012, designed and implemented a re-entry program to address the workforce needs of adults with criminal backgrounds.
Here, she tells of FIT’s mission through the inspiring triumph of “Franklin,” one of the organization’s many success stories.
FIT’s mission is to assist unemployed and underemployed Southern Nevadans to return to work. While FIT has helped job-seekers find gainful employment in almost every field in Nevada – from renewable energy and construction to teaching and information technology (IT) — there is perhaps no place that FIT has partnered with more than Nevada’s all-important tourism community.
FIT has collaborated with hotels and casinos up and down the Strip and Downtown, including Caesars Palace, The M Resort, MGM Grand, Four Queens hotel-casino, Binion’s Gambling Hall, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming properties.
Few places were hit worse by the Great Recession of 2008 than Las Vegas, where countless workers found themselves suddenly laid off and in desperate need of work. While the economic downturn shook the Las Vegas community to its foundations, FIT was on hand to provide seamless career services. Through FIT, thousands of clients have been trained for new careers, guided in job search strategies, and supported by a team of passionate case managers each and every step of the way.
Though the economy is thriving once more and unemployment is at a historic low, challenges still face many Southern Nevadans seeking employment. Some job-seekers are hampered by criminal records. Others are grappling with the effects of past substance abuse or long-term joblessness. Regardless of the barrier, FIT excels in providing specialized services for anyone trying to build a future for themselves in the Vegas Valley, and there’s no better example of that than “Franklin.” (Editor’s note: FIT is withholding his real name and employer to protect his privacy.)
When Franklin first came to FIT, he knew that he wanted something better for himself but wasn’t sure where to start. An Iraq War veteran, Franklin was injured during his time of service and returned home with a dependency on painkillers. Already struggling with the adjustment to civilian life, Franklin’s dependency soon spiraled into addiction, followed by a string of petty offenses, followed by time in prison. It was there that Franklin became determined to take back control of his life, and it was at FIT that his dream began to become reality.
Franklin’s caseworker worked closely with him to find not just a job but a career that he could truly grow and thrive in. After careful consideration, Franklin enrolled in culinary training — with his tuition, uniform, knife set and textbooks all entirely funded by FIT. During Franklin’s training, FIT partnered with industry experts and local businesses to ensure that Franklin wouldn’t just be qualified, but would be the exact employee they were looking for.
After graduating from training, Franklin quickly found a place for himself in Las Vegas’ legendary hospitality industry, working his way up to the position of sous chef at one of the finest restaurants on the Strip. Not only is Franklin employed, but he is looked to by his coworkers as a leader and by his managers as an example of dedication and diligence.
To this day, Franklin credits his success to the support and empathy he found at FIT, and as striking as Franklin’s story is, it’s just one of many in a proud record of successful partnerships between FIT and the hospitality industry. Whether it’s in the front of the house or the back of the house, on the floor or in the office, FIT is connecting clients with employment, and employers with an enthusiastic workforce.
It’s our privilege to foster our clients’ creativity, commitment and perseverance. After 22 years of serving the people of Southern Nevada, we believe, now more than ever, that everyone deserves a chance to contribute to making Las Vegas a wonderful place to visit and a fantastic place to live.
To learn more about us, or to get involved, visit lasvegasfit.org.
Voices of Vegas features guest columnists from all walks of public life in Las Vegas. With columns touching on local cultural, historical, social, civic, educational and humanitarian topics, among others, they weave a tapestry of perspectives that emphasize the dynamism, depth and benefits of the Southern Nevada tourism industry.
To offer feedback on this column or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.