Reaching-Out with the Catholic Guild for the blind

As a member of the Brooklyn Chamber's Ambassador Committee, I have been involved with the Not-for-Profit Summit for the past two years. On December 2, 2014, at the behest of Investors Bank - the exclusive sponsors for the annual summit - a follow-up event was held at Cooklyn's Restaurant to solicit feedback from the varied attendees. While there, I met and had an extended conversation with Kim Fasano, the Board Chair of Reaching-Out Community Services, who was a panelist at the Not-For-Profit Summit.

Afterwards, I e-mailed her an in-depth description of the employment services we offer to both organizations and the visually impaired clients we serve. This let to Kim attending one of our Work Readiness Workshops that I conduct, where she had the opportunity to meet our divers clients and assess the skill sets they can offer. She conducted mock interviews and provided critiques.

Kim became enamored with several of the group participants and felt their skills would be applicable at Reaching-Out Community Services. A meeting was subsequently arranged with the Executive Director of Reaching-Out, Tom Neve, and two of the workshop participants with the goal of setting-up internships at Reaching-Out.

As with most non-profits, there are budget constraints, but thanks to the contract the Catholic Guild for the Blind has with the New York State Commission for the Blind, we were able to set-up two Work Experience Trainings (WET). This program allows for our visually impaired clients to gain experience or re-acclimate themselves to work, while also providing assistance to an organization at no cost. During the 260 hours the person is interning, he or she is on the payroll of Catholic Charities Community Services and is covered by our worker's compensation and short-term disability.

This literally creates a "win-win" scenario. The non-profit in this instance can get more work accomplished without impacting their budget, while our clients attain real world work experience and the chance to prove how capable visually impaired people really are with and without assistive technology - which we supply if needed.

At the end of the internship period, provided the client has acquitted themselves well, half the time it segues directly to employment at the organization interning them. If not, the person has gained recent experience to add to their resume and a letter of recommendation, thus improving their marketability.

This partnership between two Brooklyn Chamber Members - the Catholic Guild for the Blind and Reaching-Out Community Services - is a prime example of not only the value of networking that the Brooklyn Chambers provides, but how one non-profit can aid and abet another.

Anthony Severo is the Employment Coordinator at Catholic Charities Community Services-Catholic Guild for the Blink.

For more information, contact Anthony at (646) 794-3337 or