The Joseph Project offering a second chance for people in Wausau area

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 7:08 PM CST
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SCHOFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Jennifer Olson has some things in her background that could make employers hesitant to give her a chance.

“When I got out of prison I kind of didn’t know what to do with my life as well as also being sober for the first time in a very, very long time. So there’s that struggle as well as just kind of starting fresh literally from the bottom.”

That was in 2018. She is a recovering addict and when she got out of prison, she said the system placed her back into the same environments that fostered her addictions. Then, she found The Joseph Project.

“The Joseph Project, I tell everyone about it!”

It is a program run by Yauo Yang, the pastor of The Cross, a church in Schofield, and a team of 30 made up of volunteers. Quarterly, The Joseph Project offers intake sessions allowing people to see if the program is a good fit for them and if they are a good fit for the program.

“As long as you’re willing to say, you know what, I just need some help with maybe some life skills and some job skills and...can be a good team player,” Yang said, “...that’s going to be a good fit.”

Then, people are welcomed back for a week of training in job skills, life skills, and a Christian foundation, and at the end of the week they get to interview with partnering manufacturing companies. They get a meal at every session, professional clothing for their interview, and if they get a job, they get a pair of steel-toed boots and free transportation for the first 30 days.

“Everybody needs someplace to start,” Cindy Intribus said.

She is the human resources manager of Gordon Aluminum in Schofield, one of the partnering companies. She said Yang approached her about partnering with the project two years ago. Gordon Aluminum has hired at least a dozen people from the project since. Many of the people hired out of the project, she explained, are coming from low-paying jobs with tough hours and do not know how to get out of that bracket. Some were homeless. Others have been incarcerated or faced addictions.

“Not everyone comes from a background where they have a lot of training or experience on how to get a job, how to keep a job, or even how to change your career or make life changes,” she said. “The Joseph Project, I’ve noticed, addresses the soft skills. It helps them be more organized. They have more realistic expectations... [they have a] better understanding of what they needed to do to be successful.”

Olson works as a material handler for Gordon Aluminum now.

“I pretty much just get everything prepared to ship out and get loaded onto a truck.”

She said the opportunity has given her a lot of stability. She is still working to get a place of her own to rent, but she is able to save now.

“I’m able to become kind of more financially responsible, such as paying my child support off and paying other bills and things like that, so it’s great to get paid!”

This is her second opportunity through The Joseph Project. She relapsed during the pandemic, which is part of the addiction recovery process.

“You have to have the mindset to change. If you don’t have the mindset to change, you’re never going to change,” Olson stated.

Yang said as long as people are willing to work on themselves and actually want to be employed, they are welcome to try again.

“A second chance for them, just showing that love, that’s really important for them.”

He noted more than 75% of the project’s graduates get a job out of the program. Intribus said several people they have hired within the project have grown as people and as employees, allowing them to be promoted within the company.

“That’s really rewarding too, from a development standpoint to see somebody who goes from maybe no confidence to being successful and being able to pass that along to others.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance and The Joseph Project is, like, perfect to give someone a second chance at life and to be successful,” Olson concluded.

Thursday, The Joseph Project hosted a fundraising event where Olson and Intribus, along with others shared their experiences with the program.

“We receive no government funding whatsoever,” Yang said. “The only way that we are successful here in Wausau is because of local individuals or organizations who believe in the cause of giving opportunities to individuals who want to change their life around through employment.”

There are no overhead costs, so the money raised goes towards things like transportation, clothing, and food that the program provides participants. To learn more about it, sign up, volunteer, or donate, contact Yang at 715-572-4549, or click here.

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