San Manuel Band of Mission Indians awards $3.4M grant to help unemployed workers find jobs

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Nervous looks and anxious faces are to be expected at job fairs.

But at Goodwill Southern California's San Bernardino facility, more than 150 applicants had reason to be a little more confident on Friday because most of them have already been pre-screened for jobs.

"They have held my hand the whole way through," said Constance Perry, of San Bernardino.

She had previously applied for work at Goodwill Southern California, but didn't get hired. Despite that, she said their help didn't stop there.

"She said, 'We'll help you interview. We'll help set up your application, your resume.' She said, 'We just don't let you go,'" Perry said about the support she received. "I was thrilled. Very thrilled."

Goodwill Southern California said the need for job-placement services in the Inland Empire is significant.

"We're sort of the middleman," spokesperson Simon Lopez said. "We know the people. We have access to employers. We can help make that connection."

On Friday, their efforts got a significant boost. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians announced a $3.4 million grant for Goodwill Southern California, as part of a program called SB Works. Their hope is to place 1,580 people in employment within the next three years.

"(The goal is) to bring people in our shared community more job training and support," said San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairperson Lynn Valbuena.

Goodwill Southern California estimates these efforts will result in a wage gain of $22 million for the region.

"This grant allows us to invest in building our regional capacity to aggressively assist the region's job seekers," said Patrick McClenahan, Goodwill Southern California president and CEO. "We're honored to receive this generous grant award to make a positive and lasting change in our region."

Immediately after the announcement, 14 local employers conducted interviews with pre-screened candidates. Those employers included Amazon, FedEx, The Home Depot and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Some candidates were offered full-time work on the spot.

"I got my first option," said Ethel Rodriguez of San Bernardino, who was offered a position as a cashier and hostess at the casino. "They hired me! It'll make a big difference. Having a job is a good thing."
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