May 6, 2020 - CLEVELAND – This week as many Ohioans go through the process to return to work in a safe and socially responsible manner, Towards Employment is responding to both immediate basic needs and helping people invest in their future.

“So many of our current participants and graduates are struggling with job loss, reduced hours, wage loss, juggling caregiving responsibilities and so much more,” says Jill Rizika, executive director of Towards Employment. “It is critical that we shift gears to support people in addressing their most pressing concerns.  But we can’t lose sight of the importance of continuing to support people’s ability to connect to living wage jobs.  We have been able to bring new resources into the community through our national networks, and to introduce a new approach to service delivery adapted to this unprecedented COVID environment.”

Towards Employment, as part of a national initiative called Give Together Now, will distribute over $62,000 directly to 125 families experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19. Stand Together Foundation and the Family Independence Initiative created a rapid response fund that provides families with $500 in cash to respond to their family’s immediate needs. It is theirs to use as needed.

Ronnie Cannon, outreach manager and team lead for the TE Alumni Network, commented, “It was so meaningful for myself and other staff members to be able to say, we got you” to alumni like LB. She is 65 years old and a graduate of Towards Employment employed by an area hospital.  She had to take time off from work because her daughter is both an essential worker at a grocery store, and a mother who cannot afford or find childcare. LB is struggling to be the caregiver her family needs, pay household expenses, keep utilities connected (her water was disconnected) and food on the table.

Rizika continues: “In the first two months, we had to make sure all our staff could work from home with the right tools and connections; and be there for current students and alumni who are facing so many more barriers between them and a better career. Now we have instructors and students ready to look forward.”  Over the next 4 weeks, the Job Readiness Workshop at Towards Employment will become 100% virtual.  This workshop, was, before COVID-19, a way for many Clevelanders to take the first step to a career with family sustaining wages.

Towards Employment slowed down to listen to alumni and students who work hard every day to overcome adversity and systemic inequity to find careers and better lives. This week and in weeks to come, TE Career Coaches, Case Managers, Workshop Instructors, and Job Placement staff know that in the face of hardship, lack of resources, ongoing uncertainty, the need for an employment partner is greater than ever.  Towards Employment Board President Kate Terrell sums it up: “Online, in person, short-term with basic resources to face job or wage loss, or longer-term striving towards a credential and a career ….  Our mandate is clear.  Towards Employment gives people the tools and connections to find jobs and careers – and that is true even in the midst of a pandemic.”


About Towards Employment: Our mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment. Towards Employment is a proven leader in workforce development that connects people to careers, which changes people’s lives, advances businesses, and strengthens community in Northeast Ohio. Contact Towards Employment at 216.696.5750 or visit to learn more about our programming, or get connected to workforce efforts in Cleveland.