The Joseph Project — a Wisconsin anti-poverty program co-founded by Senator Ron Johnson and Pastor Jerome Smith of the Greater Praise Church of God in Christ — has reached yet another notable milestone: Yesterday, Kenyetta Williams became the 100th participant to begin a new job through the Project.
The program consists of a week of training in soft skills, taught by Smith, Johnson staffer Orlando Owens, and, in the Madison location, Pastor Raymond Davis. Johnson himself always makes time to attend the first class of each weeklong session, delivering a talk about the importance of hard work and building the good reputation of the Joseph Project so that future participants can benefit as well.
Williams was a member of the first Joseph Project class in the program’s Madison location, which is held at the Capital City Sanctuary Church of God in Christ. After a full year of operating out of Smith’s church in Milwaukee, the program expanded to Madison in November and is preparing for its second class at that satellite location. The Milwaukee location will begin its 18th class this coming Monday.
When Smith posted a job opening on Facebook in early November, his friend Williams noticed the link and contacted him about it. “The following week, I was going to Madison for the training, on Friday had my interview, and the rest is history,” she tells National Review.
Being part of the Project’s first Madison class wasn’t easy for her. “I had to travel every single day,” she explains. “I had to leave work and be at the meeting spot of Pastor Smith’s church and then travel to Madison for the class.”
But she says it was well worth the effort. “The Joseph Project believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” she notes. Williams also feels that the training prepared her well for her current job, where she works in the packaging division at a large food manufacturer.
“I am excited, bubbling over with joy,” says Smith to National Review. “Yesterday started our 100th individual working. Just to see the excitement in her eyes made everything worth it.”
He is also hopeful about the Joseph Project’s future: “More and more employers are coming on board, and it seems like our work for getting people to come in is getting a little easier.”
Smith aims to expand the Project even more in the upcoming year. “In 2017, it is my desire and my hope to grow it to another 400 people working in the Wisconsin area,” he says. “That’s going to take other churches coming on board to help us out. We’re in negotiations with churches right now to make that happen.”
It is also possible that the Joseph Project might expand in the coming year to other states, where leaders have seemed interested in modelling similar anti-poverty programs off of this one. In particular, Senator Cory Gardner has expressed the desire to initiate something like the Joseph Project in his home state of Colorado. Gardner is a member of the Senate Opportunity Coalition, a group of GOP senators who are working together to develop innovative, community-based solutions to poverty.