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New foundation launches Jobs Catalyst, connects laid off workers with nonprofits in need [video]

Megan Holmes



The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights

On this episode of Chamber Coronavirus Impact Insights, Emilie Socash, CEO of St. Petersburg Foundation and Matt Spence, Chief Programs Officer at Feeding Tampa Bay join Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber and Joe Hamilton, publisher of St. Pete Catalyst. They talk about a new effort to help local workers and nonprofits impacted by coronavirus.

There’s no sugar coating the devastation that Covid-19 pandemic has already wrought on the economy. With small businesses across the country shuttering, and no real understanding of when they might be able to open up again, thousands of workers in Tampa Bay and millions around the country are facing the tough reality of unemployment and struggling to pay their basic bills like rent, mortgages and utilities.

Nationwide unemployment claims soared 33 percent last week from the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. And it’s expected to get much worse. By the end of April, the U.S. tourism industry alone could lose nearly a third of its workforce, 4.6 million jobs.

An initiative launched by a brand new nonprofit, the St. Petersburg Foundation, is working to stave off the economic devastation for Covid-19 affected workers in St. Petersburg.

Tuesday afternoon, Socash announced the Covid-19 Crisis Response Initiative, with the goal of maintaining and sustaining operations of nonprofits here.

The first program of the initiative is called Jobs Catalyst. The program, launched together with activation partner The St. Petersburg Group, is a multi-prong approach connecting workers impacted by Covid-19 with paying opportunities to support vital nonprofit operations. The innovative program addresses both the needs of people out of work, and the needs of nonprofits who are seeing an increased load on their services and a downturn in their volunteer and staff pool.

The initiative will connect laid off workers to jobs with wages between $12-$15 per hour paid for through the St. Petersburg Foundation Covid-19 Crisis Response Fund. The Foundation is seeking large donors to offer matching funds for a public drive. It has already gained a $20,000 match sponsor, through Feeding Tampa Bay, and believes other corporations, individuals and organizations will follow suit.

“From our perspective, it works at the problem from both ends,” said Spence. “We’re solving the problem by providing food, but the best way to avoid food insecurity is by having a stable job in the first place.”

The jobs currently posted are a mix between in-person and remote positions and include: Human Resources Coordinator, Warehouse Associate, Class B CDL Truck Driver, Food Distribution Coordinator and Senior Connector.

As word gets out, St. Petersburg Foundation plans to continue adding opportunities to the jobs board for other nonprofits in need. All on-site positions will be with organizations providing essential services and who have established protocols for a safe work environment.

Positions could range from food-prep and delivery for hunger-related nonprofits like Feeding Tampa Bay, to administrative and human resources work, graphic design, reading books to children, or checking in on isolated seniors who are running low on basic supplies or in need of a human connection.

“The service industry and many different areas in St. Pete have had to shed workers and thus people are hurting for income to feed their families,” said Hamilton, a board member of the St. Petersburg Foundation. “At the same time, there’s an increased load on a lot of our nonprofits, whether food or healthcare related; and a lot of nonprofits that are functioning normally, their staff might be quarantined or unavailable.

“We saw this as a great opportunity to use some dollars from the community and get value on both sides of the coin. We could use this crisis response fund and make jobs available from nonprofits and match it to people who need jobs in the community and then use the fund to pay those wages,” Hamilton said.

The St. Petersburg Foundation, a newly-minted 501(c)3 organization, had previously planned to launch in a few months. It was still in planning stages when the coronavirus pandemic struck. Socash, who most recently served as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, had been in her role for just a two weeks, laying the groundwork for the Foundation’s launch.

“I had anticipated a very different launch of the St. Petersburg Foundation into our local community,” Socash told the Catalyst. “But the current crisis highlights our ability to activate the right resources at the right time.”

A longtime resident of Tampa Bay, Socash holds a masters degree in nonprofit management, and in May will complete her doctoral degree in organizational and leadership psychology with a focus on the psychology of charitable giving.

“I stepped into this role with incredible excitement,” she said. “Weaving together my nonprofit sector experience with my academic background allows me to serve as an agent of change right here in my hometown.”


Donate to the St. Petersburg Crisis Response Fund here: https://stpete.foundation/donate/

Nonprofits with increased needs during the Covid-19 pandemic share their needs here: https://stpete.foundation/questionnaire/

Impacted workers can view the Jobs Board here: https://stpete.foundation/jobs/

And apply* for jobs here: https://stpete.foundation/apply/

*Workers need only apply once to the job they want most; the St. Petersburg Foundation will work on fitting applicants with other jobs if their first choice is filled.


Disclaimer: Joe Hamilton is a co-founder and Partner of The St. Petersburg Group, which owns a stake in the St. Pete Catalyst.

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  1. Avatar

    Sylvia Raymond

    March 24, 2020at5:08 pm

    Thank you for adding a little bright spark to these dark times.

  2. Avatar

    Ann Madsen

    March 24, 2020at3:33 pm

    Bravo for this innovative approach! It is great to see people coming together to support laid off workers and nonprofits at the same time.

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