About Us Header
You are here: Home News & Events News Newsletters

January 2015 Newsletter

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
In This Edition:
  • Thanks to You: Rana Makes Her Dream Come True
  • You Can Keep Your Hat On (at the gala)!
  • Do You Need Your Whole Refund? Get All of It, with Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance
  • Class 45 Makes 15 Years of Graduates!
  • Volunteers David and Nicola Fraser Make a Perfect Picture
  • Rana Zarour and her children
    "Thank you Opportunity Junction for helping me feel strong, accomplished, and able to overcome anything."
    Thanks to You: Rana Makes Her Dream Come True
    For Rana Zarour, a vacation trip from Jerusalem to the United States to visit family unexpectedly morphed into a permanent relocation. However, life was far from the American Dream she envisioned. After college and 12 years of marriage, she found herself entering the job market as a single mother of two, with very little work experience to support herself and her children. Rana learned about Opportunity Junction's training program through her CalWORKs worker. "Opportunity Junction is a priceless lifetime change. Coming to OJ is one of the best decisions I have made and I learned I can fix my past bad decisions and move beyond them." Rana adds, "If it wasn't for OJ, I would still be struggling in low paying jobs with no future. Now, I feel strong, accomplished, and very determined to overcome any challenges I may face. I have found my happiness, and I am a role model and example for my kids." A few months after she started at East Bay Community Foundation, Rana received a promotion to the full-time, benefited Receptionist position. Here's what your support helped Rana accomplish…
    2015 Gala Logo
    You Can Keep Your Hat On (at the gala)!
    We are deep into the planning for this year's Imagine Gala, presented by Chevron. This year will be better than ever with Anniversary surprises, exciting auction items, great food and drink, and dance music. Of course the best part is the warm glow you'll get for supporting the low-income residents of Contra Costa County! Save-the-Date: April 25, 2015! Click here for more information.
    DIY Tax Assistance Claim your whole refund with Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance
    Why willingly pay hundreds of dollars (say, $300-$500) to get the rest of your tax refund just two weeks sooner this year? Do you have something you'd like to spend those hundreds of dollars on instead? Make sure you get your WHOLE refund by joining us for Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance, which launched on January 23rd. It's free if your income is below $60,000. Learn more…
    Meryl Natchez
    Class 45 Makes 15 Years of Graduates!
    Please help us celebrate our graduates this Thursday, January 29th at 7:00 pm at the El Campanil Theater in Antioch! Graduation marks the end of the first phase of our Job Training and Placement Program for our participants. With three classes a year, Class 45's graduation officially marks our 15th Anniversary, and Opportunity Junction founder Meryl Natchez will be our featured speaker. Read more…
    David and Nicola Fraser
    Volunteers David and Nicola Fraser Make a Perfect Picture
    You wouldn't think that either David or Nicola Fraser could possibly fit in a volunteer engagement alongside their other pursuits. David is employed both as Supervisor Federal Glover's Chief of Staff and as an Adjunct Professor at the California State University, East Bay. Nicola, a public health nutritional consultant (who holds a Master's of Public Health), is also a full-time doctoral student in Organizational Leadership. Together, they are the owners and photographers of PhotoSophistry.com. Busy, yes, but they also volunteer with Opportunity Junction! Read about their behind-the-scenes activities…

    New Grants | Wish List

    Opportunity Junction on YouTubeOpportunity Junction on Facebook Donate Now

    Thanks to You: Rana Makes Her Dream Come True

    Rana Zarour

    What started out as a vacation trip from Jerusalem to the United States to visit family, unexpectedly morphed into a permanent relocation for then 20-year-old Rana. The decision to relocate from her homeland allowed Rana to embrace her new American life with gusto: she went to college, got married and started a family. But life was far from perfect. After 12 years of marriage, Rana found herself entering the job market as a single mother of two, with very little work experience to support herself and her children.

    Rana was able to find short-term temporary positions but nothing that paid enough or had benefits. "Things were really hard, and my life wasn't my own. I was fortunate to have the support of my parents and two sisters for a place to live and financial support, but I needed to be able to support us on my own-without depending on my family and without government assistance. I just didn't know how to get there," she shares.

    Rana learned about Opportunity Junction's training program through her CalWORKs worker. "I was hesitant to go at first. I had tried so many different programs like Adult Ed and specialty administrative training programs. But none of them helped me find a career. I quickly learned that OJ's program was different and special.

    Rana Zarour and children seated on bench

    "Opportunity Junction is a priceless lifetime change. The program is worth every minute and helped me get through one of the ugliest times in my life. I feel changed. The extensive and intensive training prepared me for more than the job market; the complete training helps me deal with my own life, too."

    Rana left the training program with a part-time administrative position with the East Bay Community Foundation. "I was excited for the opportunity, but knew I was capable of contributing more to the foundation." A few months after she started, Rana received a promotion to the full-time, benefitted Receptionist position. With her new skills, Rana was such a valuable contributor to the foundation that they were willing to work with her schedule so that she could work full-time and still be available to take her kids to school every morning.

    Rana's supervisor, Carlos Velasquez, Operations Manager at the East Bay Community Foundation, shares, "I could see early on that Rana was smart, had considerable training, and wanted to do her best -- things every manager looks for in a new employee. Her skills, combined with her pleasant and gracious personality, are helping her develop into an important 'front-line ambassador' for the Foundation. We are happy to have Rana on board and believe she is testimony to the quality of candidates who have come to us from Opportunity Junction over the last several years."

    "Opportunity Junction is one of the best decisions I have made and taught me I can fix my past bad decisions and move beyond them." Rana adds, "If it wasn't for OJ, I would still be struggling in low paying jobs with no future. Thanks to Opportunity Junction I feel strong, accomplished, and very determined to overcome any challenges I may face. Now, I have found my happiness, and I am a role model and example for my kids."

    Donate Now Back to top

    You Can Keep Your Hat On (at the gala)!

    Hats Off To You On this, our 15th anniversary, we take our hats off to you: the employers, donors, sponsors, volunteers, and program alumni who inspire us. The 2015 Imagine Gala will celebrate hundreds of families rescued from poverty and more than $8 million earned by alumni last year alone. This is possible because of you. Please join us to celebrate, and wear a hat!

    Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine with a no-host bar. Bid on fabulous silent auction items from local merchants and California wineries. Gourmet dinner, live auction and dancing to celebrate all that IS POSSIBLE.

    The gala is Saturday April 25, 2015 from 5:30-11:00 at the Diablo Country Club.

    Contact Rebecca at Rebecca@OpportunityJunction.org for more information.
    You may purchase tickets online here!

    Presenting Sponsor:
    Chevron

    Platinum Sponsors:
    Seeno Homes
    Wells Fargo
    Gold Sponsors:
    Craig Communications
    Future State
    J. Stokes Agency
    Temen, Kaiser & Cameron
    Media Sponsors:
    Diablo Magazine

    Silver Sponsors:
    Cosmetic Dental Spa
    Dow Chemical Company
    Mechanics Bank
    NRG Energy
    Phillips 66
    Bronze Sponsors:
    Summit Financial Group
    Donate Now Back to top


    Do You Need Your Whole Refund? Get All of It, with Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance

    Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance Using MyFreeTaxes.com Why willingly pay hundreds of dollars (say, $300-$500) to get the rest of your tax refund just two weeks sooner this year? Do you have something you'd like to spend those hundreds of dollars on instead? Maybe you're saving up for a car? Maybe there are some things you'd like to buy for the kids?

    This year, a little patience will go a long way. Our first Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance (DIYTA) session is January 24th. You can bet that the quickie-loan-refund-sharks will be out on the streets, promising quick refunds, but only if you pay them to prepare your taxes and pay them huge loan fees, too. Remember: nobody can actually get you your refund faster -- what they call a refund is actually a high-interest-rate short-term loan until your actual refund arrives a few days later.

    Don't be a victim: sign up for a Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance session by clicking here. And if you like our service, tell a friend!

    We are grateful to the United Way of the Bay Area and the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! coalition for making this work possible.

    Join us Fridays at 6 pm sharp or Saturdays at 10 am sharp for the training you need to get your full refund back as quickly as possible. We know you can put the money to good use. All of it.

    Donate Now Back to top

    Class 45 Makes 15 Years of Graduates!

    Please help us celebrate our graduates this Thursday, January 29th at 7:00 pm at the El Campanil Theater in Antioch! Graduation marks the end of the first phase of our Job Training and Placement Program for our participants. With three classes a year, Class 45's graduation officially marks our 15th Anniversary, and Opportunity Junction founder Meryl Natchez will be our featured speaker.

    Meryl Natchez Meryl left college without a degree, married, and had four children. She started her career as a secretary, making $6/hour. After taking courses at Contra Costa Community College, she found work as a technical writer, and in 1982 founded a technical writing, training and change management business, now called FutureState and owned and run by the employees.

    In 1998, Natchez became Contra Costa Council's Technology Chair and in that role worked with County officials and business people to found Opportunity Junction. Since retirement, she has focused on poetry, and she blogs at www.dactyls-and-drakes.com.

    Opportunity Junction graduations are always a moving experience. Each of the participants is given an opportunity to speak for a few minutes. Please join us to hear what they have to say about the experience and what the future holds for them.

    Donate Now Back to top


    Volunteers David and Nicola Fraser Make a Perfect Picture

    David and Nicola Fraser You wouldn't think that either David or Nicola Fraser could possibly fit in a volunteer engagement alongside their other pursuits. David is employed both as Supervisor Federal Glover's Chief of Staff and as an Adjunct Professor at the California State University, East Bay. Nicola, a public health nutritional consultant (who holds a Master's of Public Health), is also a full-time doctoral student in Organizational Leadership. Together, they are the owners and photographers of PhotoSophistry.com. Busy, yes, but they also volunteer with Opportunity Junction!

    David first got to know Opportunity Junction shortly after joining the Supervisor's office in 2006, and he served as the inspirational Special Guest Speaker for the Class 24 graduation ceremony in December of 2007. The inspiration was reciprocal: David wanted to get involved! And he had a special talent to share: photography. David had switched from film to digital photography in 2005, and he offered to provide photography for the next year's graduation ceremonies.

    After one year, David was hooked. David, joined by Nicola in 2009, have documented our graduations and annual Gala ever since! Their photographs are featured on our website, and we are grateful for their generosity.

    Gala guests "Photography for us is about as much the art as the product," David explains. "It would be different if this were our sole source of income, but it isn't. We're able to photograph what we're passionate about at our own pace." Nicola smiles and adds that David is very particular about the editing of the photographs.

    And David and Nicola are both passionate about their community. Their Events portfolio at http://www.photosophistry.com/events features brilliant photographs of events ranging from Supervisor Glover's Youth Summit, to the MLK Celebration, to the Celebracion de Chavez, and the Highway 4 Widening groundbreaking.

    A quick glance at the PhotoSophistry Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PhotoSophistry tells you something else about this generous couple: Nicola is definitely David's favorite model! In fact, Nicola is herself a lifestyle and fashion consultant in addition to everything else: check out her website at http://www.nicolaifill.com/ .

    We are grateful that the Frasers will once again be photographing guests at our Imagine Gala this year (coming up on April 25th). And the theme - Hat's Off to You - is a perfect fit, according to the pair. "We're actually working on a project called Hats," says David. The project will explore the many ways people use hats, whether as political statements, fashion statements, sports affiliation, and more. "And I love the opportunity to dress up," adds Nicola.

    David also teaches photography and volunteered with our evening Technology Center as a Digital Photography instructor. He will be teaching RAW 101 later this year in the Eastern Caribbean.

    Donate Now Back to top


    New Grants and Support for our Programs

    We are proud and grateful to announce the following new grants and funding partnerships:

    Callison Foundation - Established in 1965, the Callison Foundation gives primarily to arts and education, and senior support. We are honored to have their general support to enable us to deliver all of our programs that provide coaching, training, introduction, paid work experience and support services that enable motivated, low-income job-seekers to overcome barriers to employment.

    The San Francisco Foundation San Francisco Foundation: The San Francisco Foundation is providing core operating support for our Job Training and Placement Program, which combines skills training, work experience, support services and long-term follow-up that enable participants to launch administrative careers.

    Thomas J. Long Foundation The Thomas J. Long Foundation has awarded Opportunity Junction a grant to support the Job Training and Placement Program, ensuring that the full range of training and services remains available to participants seeking to launch administrative careers. Thomas J. Long was a firm believer that one should give, for the benefit of others, a portion of what one has received, and the Foundation makes grants in the fields of Arts & Culture, Conservation, Education, Health, and Human Services.

    Donate Now Back to top


    Newsletter Contributors: Brianna Burkman, Alissa Friedman, Rebecca Riley. Photographs by Brianna Burkman and Lisa Franklin, and edited by Natasha DeAlmeida. Newsletter assembled by Lea Mason. (Thanks, Lea!)

    On the Road to Self-Sufficiency — Opportunity Junction fights poverty by helping low-income Contra Costa residents gain the skills and confidence to get and keep jobs that support themselves and their families.

    Opportunity Junction is exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    © Opportunity Junction 2015

     

     
     
     
     

    Hire A Grad

    Volunteer

    We have rewarding volunteer opportunities at all levels of involvement and expertise. We are grateful to envelope-stuffers, volunteer trainers, and pro bono professionals alike.

    > Find out more

    Programs

    Opportunity Junction’s programs help struggling job-seekers transform themselves into breadwinners and role models.

    > Job Training and Placement
    > SparkPoint Career Development
    > Technology Center
    > Do-It-Yourself Tax Assistance

    For Alumni

    Job Training and Placement Program alumni are eligible for:

    > Alumni Council
    > Employment Incentives
    > Active Job Seekers Program