Women’s Bean Project: Where a Second Chance Is More Than Just a Job

Posted on July 11, 2017 by Joseph Brown

Cincinnati Reds Hall-of-Famer Peter Rose once said, “If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.” For many who suffer from addiction, have significant gaps in employment history or have a criminal record, a second chance can transform a life. For the women at Women’s Bean Project (WBP), it already has.

Women’s Bean Project provides employment, job training, and educational opportunities to help women in need of a second chance transform their lives. At Stand Together, we believe the work being done at Women’s Bean Project is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Women’s Bean Project is an S+ Catalysts participating in our current cohort, through which they receive resources, training, and networking to build a vision and plan for growth in the future.

Started in 1989 by Josepha “Jossy” Eyre, Women’s Bean Project sought to provide employment opportunities — a key step in combatting the cycle of poverty — to homeless women in the Denver area. Eyre bought $500 worth of beans and put two homeless women to work making bean soup – the first step in building the social enterprise they are today. Today, with a 6-9 month transitional employment program which teaches women in need the hard and soft skills necessary to re-enter the workforce, Women’s Bean Project has transformed the lives of over 1,000 women, affecting the lives of over 20,000 women and children.

Women’s Bean Project prepares women for the workforce with four key services.

  • When Women’s Bean Project hires a woman, they work together with her to develop a case plan and provide access to services to meet basic needs such as housing, transportation, child care, and health services.
  • Women receive job readiness training by performing hands-on work in food production and jewelry-making, where they gain attendance, teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills.
  • They attend life-skills classes which make retaining a job possible. These weekly classes address topics such as goal setting, budgeting, and empowerment through self-confidence, self-worth, and responsibility.
  • When performance indicates job readiness, each woman receives individualized support to transition from the program to entry-level employment. They are also given the option to further their education or access new training.

 

More Than a Job

For the women of Women’s Bean Project, a second chance is more than just a job. It’s never that simple: Many join the program lacking the necessary skills to gain and retain employment, with large gaps in job history, a criminal record or, in the case of Suzette, the result of abusive relationships.

A 2012-13 graduate of WBP, Suzette had been in and out of abusive relationships for much of her life and had a distant relationship with her children. Living at a halfway house, she learned the skills necessary for long-term employment at Women’s Bean Project, later moving in with her sponsor and transitioning to a career in 2013. Today, she manages a crew of four employees at a construction company and has reconnected with both of her children.

“My life was coming together as I transitioned out of Women’s Bean Project and into permanent employment.”—Suzette

For Rebbie, a 2015-16 graduate, a combination of childhood trauma and homelessness kept her from realizing her full potential. With Women’s Bean Project, she took basic computer classes and earned her fork lift certification. Today, she’s a graduate of the program and has a full-time job in a manufacturing business, with health benefits and opportunity for advancement.

“I don’t like change, but God is helping me in the process of striving to be better and in continuing to learn. It is wonderful that you can work to earn a living while having classes to help you gain more useful skills.”—Rebbie

WBP’s commitment to helping women start a new life shows in the amazing results of their program. An astonishing 100 percent of women who graduate from Women’s Bean Project receive job placement, and more than 90 percent retain employment after a year. For these women, these hard-fought employment opportunities lead to greater independence and a pathway out of abusive relationships and addiction, and provide the ability to live a fruitful and fulfilling life. It’s not just a job these women are receiving — it’s the support they need for an entirely transformed life.

Today

WBP is undergoing a rebranding effort to propel their image into the future, adopting a new logo and packaging for its food and jewelry products that will tell its compelling and personal story as a catalyst to transform the lives of so many women and children. It’s a campaign that “captures and clarifies the power and impact of our overall mission, but more so, it’s about increasing efficiency in our operations and functioning better on store shelves to increase sales, create more jobs and hire more women,” said Women’s Bean Project’s CEO Tamra Ryan, who has been with WBP for 14 years. WBP’s new packaging is available at womensbeanproject.com, Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Walmart.com, its retail store at 3201 Curtis Street in Denver, CO, and in almost 1,000 grocery stores and fair trade stores across the United States.

Stand Together is proud to partner with Women’s Bean Project in helping more women transform their own lives. Women’s Bean Project offers the priceless gift of a second chance to not only the women who work with them but their families, too, creating a culture of empowerment to break the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment.