By Peter Osborne
Program participants will be managing 240 properties that the Land Bank owns on the west side of Wilmington, assessing damage and roof issues, stabilizing properties, and doing basic carpentry, security, grass-cutting and trash pickup.
The program targets city residents who are having difficulty getting traction in their job searches, including people seeking second chances after serving time in jail and SNAP recipients, said Rev. Terrence Keeling, pastor of Central Baptist Church and president of the Central Baptist Church Community Development Corp.
Students at the Eastside Rising Training Center start with five weeks of soft-skills training where they learn how to find jobs and keep them. They can then move on to developing hard skills, gaining certification in such areas as basic construction, Microsoft Office, and copper-cable wiring. They can also get more advanced training at the Delaware Skills Center in such areas as carpentry, plumbing and HVAC.
More than 80 percent have been placed at companies like M. Davis, said Rev. Keeling, who added that more than 100 people have gone through the program.
“We are helping people who might not get an interview build their resumes and obtain positive references,” Rev. Keeling said. “We’re all about barrier reduction — helping these young people overcome barriers to find a good job. This is a big commitment from the Land Bank and they are a good partner.”
The goal is to help young adults be more employable, and the initiative with the Land Bank will give them on-the-job training that will enable them to be more confident when applying for jobs with private-sector companies, said Land Bank Executive Director Bill Freeborn.
“I’ve known Rev. Keeling for a few years and this relationship fell into place,” Freeborn said. “We’re starting with two three-person teams but that could expand based on our inventory of homes. This is a great opportunity for both sides.”
The Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank is a public/private partnership founded in 2015 and funded by the city, the private sector, and by Delaware State Housing Authority and foundation grants to manage the city’s inventory of vacant homes and return them to productive uses.
“This is a good story for a city that needs good stories,” said Rev. Keeling, who noted that the Community development Corp. does more than develop houses — it also builds relationships among retirees, business owners and young people in the community to create a great revitalization plan.
“When Rev. Keeling got here 10 years ago, he saw what was happening on the East Side and helped his congregation understand that you have to develop the whole person,” said Raheemah Jabbar-Bey, chair of the CBCDC. “He did it for a few years without any outside funding — helping people grow their sense of self and dignity along with their soft skills. He and others are getting people ready to work in construction, in an office, and in the hospitality industry. But this project with the Land Bank — getting people working in their own neighborhoods — well, that’s amazing.”