by Allison Arnold | photography by Two Eagles Marcus
In 2003, a group of employers got together to solve a problem they were facing across their companies; many of their employees were facing barriers that interfered with their employment. These seven companies formed The SOURCE, a nonprofit centered on providing services to employees of member companies in order to help them retain employment and advance their careers.
There are currently 21 companies that pay for membership at The SOURCE, most being manufacturers.
“Employers pay about 80 percent of our budget to fund our organization through their membership, and the rest is through philanthropy,” Milinda Ysasi, executive director of The SOURCE, said.
The nonprofit operates under a collaborative model where staff, member companies and numerous community partners work together in a system that benefits each stakeholder.
Employees of member companies can turn to The Source for help navigating difficult life situations, such as being evicted, finding affordable childcare and managing and reducing debt. For many, these hurdles can be detrimental, not only to their personal wellbeing but to their employment, especially if there are language and cultural barriers that keep the individual from knowing where to start.
“What is most compelling and frustrating about the work that we do is that all the people we work with have jobs,” Ysasi expressed. “They’re doing everything that society tells them to do, and many of them work not only the one job that they have, but many other jobs, and they’re still unable to meet their basic needs.”
According to Ysasi, The SOURCE is trying to help individuals attain more stability both at home and at work, so that they can grow individually and in their careers.
“I’m just so grateful that they got to see something that I didn’t even see in myself,” Leticia Rodriguez, administrative assistant at The SOURCE and a former member employee, said.
Rodriguez first got involved with the organization when she was working for a member company. She was trying to figure out how to apply for Medicaid and food stamps for her and her son when she learned about the services provided by The SOURCE through her employer. The first in her family to attend college, Rodriguez also entered a program to help her navigate her way through the application and enrollment process.
“The Source made me become a better person…I had the goals, I had where I wanted to be or where I wanted to go, but I didn’t have that idea of where do I go to sign up or college,” Rodriguez expressed.
Ysasi is passionate about the positive impact The SOURCE is having on the community, but can’t help but call attention to the root of the problem.
“In so many ways I think the work that we do is good, but there are deeper systemic issues,” she said. “I do think that organizations like our still need to exist to support people while we’re trying to figure out these systemic issues.”
The SOURCE is intentional about hiring employees with a broad range of lived experience. Jobs are posted in a variety of ways via organizations deeply involved in the community such as Urban Core Collective. Approaching the hiring process in this way has created a diverse workforce that has been able to have a large impact on member employees, and even on one another.
“They’re always pushing me as an employee. They’re always pushing me to do better and always believing in me,” Rodriguez said.