Matthew Kelleher Finds a Home, a Mentor and a Job at Community Work Services

Matthew Kelleher Finds a Home, a Mentor and a Job at Community Work Services

At Community Work Services, Matthew Kelleher found just what he needed, at just the right time—a mentor, a family-like atmosphere, and a sustainable job.

Growing up in Springfield, MA Matthew has seen a lot of violence in his life, and as a young man lived with the feeling that each day could be his last. After his older brother passed away in 2010, he fell into a cycle of drug abuse that would spiral out of control. “My brother was everything,” Matthew said. “I had two young kids and I wasn’t a father figure at all.”

Matthew was involved with the criminal justice system during those years, incarcerated for a time and sent to rehab programs. In early 2020 he relapsed during a visit to his hometown, MA, but this time he was hospitalized under a civil commitment order. Shortly after that he had what he called a spiritual awakening—he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“Something changed,” Matthew said. “I stopped worrying, stopped thinking about ways to get out of the program. I just did what I knew I needed to do.”

After leaving the hospital, while living in a halfway house and participating in recovery services, Matthew was referred to CWS. He met the trainers and team, and also Tim Muise. An inspiration to many, Tim, who serves as Program Coordinator for CWS, gave a speech that still resonates with Matthew—don’t let the past define you, and today is first day of the rest of your life.

Tim shared his own story about being a returning citizen—how after a lengthy prison sentence he came to CWS and today is not only the agency’s Program Director, but also an inspiration and mentor to others who may have made bad choices but are looking to turn their lives around.

“I was already motivated, but for him to say that he was showing me another person who has made it, who has turned their life around, it really challenged and motivated me even more,” Matthew said

Matthew Kelleher (left) and Tim Muise of CWS

Matthew will never forget August 30th 2021; it’s the day he began the commercial cleaning training program–and also enrolled in an online university program to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. As he made the rounds during training and met just about everyone on the agency’s six floors, Matthew was struck by the fact that no matter where he went, it felt like family. “I saw how much everybody cared about us as people and participants.”

Even after his graduation from the Commercial Cleaning Program, Matthew still sought out the supportive, family-like atmosphere at CWS, returning each day to serve as a volunteer and to maintain his daily routine. Tim could see how serious Matthew was about changing his life, so when a position opened up for supervisor in CWS’ Commercial Production program, he offered Matthew the job. It was a wise choice.

“Matthew was an excellent trainee, and he took our program model to heart,” Tim said. “He has really good acumen with clients, can work with anyone, and he is a very gentle and kind person who wants people to succeed.”

“I snatched the job right up,” Matthew said, “I had a habit of limiting myself, and settling for things, but Tim helps me see you can do anything you want in life. Every day, he sends out awesome and encouraging emails.

As Supervisor of Commercial Production, Matthew had the opportunity to meet many participants in CWS programs, including many with disabilities, and it really opened his eyes. “To be able to help them, and to see how hard they want to work, I am speechless. Giving back to these great participants that’s why I wake up every day and I look forward to coming here.”

Matthew’s natural empathy and skilled ways of interacting with participants were recognized within the CWS family, and he was offered a job as Case Manager. “It’s awesome to be able to help guide people to the right direction in life, and help them get back into the workforce. At CWS they find your best qualities and make use of them.”

For Luc Samuel Kuanzambi and His Family, a Desperate Journey Leads to a New Life in Maine

For Luc Samuel Kuanzambi and His Family, a Desperate Journey Leads to a New Life in Maine

Families Forward was well-positioned to help Luc and his family settle into a community where they could put down roots.

Luc Samuel Kuanzambi and his wife Paulette were a happy young couple living in South Africa with very promising professional careers. They had a five-year-old son, Lael, and a newborn daughter, Ticvah.

Little did they know they were heading into some tremendously difficult times. A month and a half after Ticvah’s birth, the baby developed jaundice and it was determined she would most likely need a liver transplant. The frantic parents began calling everywhere for help and advice. They were advised by medical contacts not to have the procedure done in South Africa where transplants were still experimental.

Taking their plight to social media, Luc and Paulette were told about a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska with the capacity to provide a second opinion and possibly perform the transplant, but they would have to raise the money on their own. With no other options, the family applied for and obtained a medical visa, left nearly all of their possessions behind, and headed for Omaha. They managed to raise a little over $30,000 from local community donors and online appeals, far short of the $750,000 required by the hospital. As a result, all the hospital could do was stabilize Ticvah.

Luc couldn’t work, rent a house, or buy medical insurance because he lacked a Social Security number, so the family lived off the kindness of strangers, staying for a few nights in various charity homes and relying on charity for food and essentials. Five months after arriving in Omaha, with Ticvah’s condition worsening, their visas about to expire and $116,000 in debt, they left Nebraska for Maine, where Luc had a cousin who told them that they could expect more generosity. Arriving in Maine on a hot July night, the heat aggravated Ticvah’s condition and was hard on Paulette, who was now pregnant. The family hadn’t eaten all day. Luc said he prayed and wept that night.

“I felt broken. I was wiped out of everything, we were so afraid our daughter would die, and my family was facing the reality of living in poverty. We had no idea what to do next.”

In Maine, the family’s fortunes finally changed. A community shelter, where other African immigrants were staying, welcomed them with open arms. At Maine Medical Center, Luc and Paulette talked to social workers, who explained that Ticvah had legal protections in Maine and that the family qualified for emergency housing while Ticvah was hospitalized. When her condition worsened, the miracle they had so desperately sought finally arrived—Ticvah was sent to Boston for a liver transplant at no cost to the family.

“I don’t know who footed the bill,” Luc said. “We were just told at the hospital not to worry about money.”

In the midst of the crisis Luc was connected to Maine’s Families Forward, a statewide program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and operated by Fedcap, Inc. Families Forward provides support and services to refugees and immigrants from more than 22 different countries and was well-positioned to help Luc and his family settle into a community where they could put down roots. They sponsored Paulette’s driver training and certified nurse assistant (CNA) training; Paulette is now on track to become a registered nurse. Fedcap was able to secure funding for the renewal of Paulette’s work permit, and is doing the same for Luc.

Luc eagerly undertook workforce training as he was eager to get off public assistance. “So many immigrants face the same struggle,” he said. “All our background means nothing and our work history is wiped out. I did not want to be a liability and my goal is to be independent as soon as possible.”

Today life is so much better. Ticvah, now five, is doing amazing—she has so much confidence and such a “strong personality”. Lael, now 11, is a gifted piano player and Alexander-King, the youngest child born in Portland, Maine four years ago, is showing signs of being gifted in math.

Luc has become a powerful advocate for Maine’s immigrant community. On October 28, 2021, he gave a presentation to Families Forward leadership and funders about the immigrant experience, the challenges he and his family faced, and the value of Families Forward and the kind of immigrant services and support they received from the staff of Fedcap.

“These programs are lifesaving,” Luc said. “Without Families Forward and the support of the community and local benefactors, our daughter would not be alive today. Families Forward made it possible for us to begin building a new life.”


Wildcat’s ENABLE Helps Army Veteran William Kimberlin Find His Ideal Job

Wildcat’s ENABLE Helps Army Veteran William Kimberlin Find His Ideal Job

William Kimberlin was always a leader, a hard-charging, competitive guy. He excelled in high school sports, especially wrestling and swimming, and took home may first-place trophies. With a keen desire to protect and serve, William’s goal was to become a police officer. He took law enforcement classes in college. Eager to be active and out in the world, William decided to put college on hold, and in 1996 enlisted in the U.S. Army, entering the service as a mechanic in the Reserves.

A natural leader, William led his squad in in basic training. At the U.S. Army Airborne School in Georgia he packed and inspected parachutes—“The first parachute you pack you jump, and if it opens you pass,” he said. He rose to the rank of E-4 Specialist, with management duties and command of soldiers of lower rank.

In 1998, while still in the service, William was a passenger in a car when the driver fell asleep. The subsequent crash resulted in traumatic brain injury (TBI) William couldn’t speak or talk, and had no movement in his extremities. After three years of intensive physical, occupational, cognitive and speech therapies, he recovered enough functioning to get a driver’s license, but was unable to work for seven years.

William’s first job in upon returning to the workforce was as a substitute teacher in middle schools and high schools in Randolph, NJ. “I love to challenge myself and try new things,” he said. He enjoyed working with the students, but struggled with technology as it became more central to teaching.

William worked at Home Depot for a while, but wanted something more meaningful—something in keeping with the desire to serve that first sparked his interest in law enforcement and the military. He went to the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), and earned his SORA License a security guard certification. He was referred to ENABLE for workforce training and job placement, and in 2018 began working with Lindsey Crean, MA, and District Supervisor/Senior Job Developer for ENABLE, a program of Wildcat Services Corporation.

It was a fortuitous meeting. Over the ensuing months William and Lindsey met at a public library to work on William’s resume and practice his interview skills. William had short stints at other jobs while he sought work as a security guard. Lindsey accompanied him to five interviews for a security guard position, helping him with paperwork. William did most of the talking.

He was turned down for each. “William spoke slowly and was sometimes hard to understand, but I think the reason he wasn’t hired is because there are still a lot of companies that are not open to hiring people with disabilities,” Lindsey said.

The rejections were especially disappointing because William has made remarkable progress in his speech and mobility since Lindsey first met him in 2018. “When he first called him to schedule intake in 2018 he was harder to understand,” Lindsey said. “Now, he is very calm and easy to understand, and is getting better every time I talk to him. Also, William is a great guy and a proud American. He is reliable and dependable, and a hard worker who wants to do the right thing. He has greatly improved his own life, and goes out of his way to help others.”

As is often the case, the issue is less about William’s abilities than the assumptions people make about people with disabilities. Not only is William’s speech easy to understand–his words are thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. He just speaks more slowly than others.

“I have found over the years that people are very sympathetic, but they don’t want to deal with disabilities,” William said. “People with TBI often have slurred speech, and they are not willing to put the effort in to get to know me or allow me to talk.”

In 2018, William was offered a job at White Meadow Lake, a residential community in Rockaway, NJ, with lakes, pools and docks for boats. White Meadow Lake Management have taken William under their wing and helped him build a career. William patrols in a security vehicle and is friendly with many of the residents. He works about 10 hours per week, and is a participant in ongoing TBI studies. He likes his job very much and hopes to get married and settle down.

William and Lindsey regularly keep in touch. Lindsey has a sister who lives in White Lake Village, and they often see each other there. “Lindsey has been extremely helpful,” William said. “When I struggled with technology and she was fantastic, putting various apps on my phone like Zip recruiter to help me find work. Even today, she knows more about my benefits than I do.”

Munir Chaudhary: “My work allows me to be self-sufficient and support my family.”

Munir Chaudhary: “My work allows me to be self-sufficient and support my family.”

Munir Chaudhary came to the US from Pakistan in 2011 to join his father. He was excited about this new adventure, but the transition was much harder than he thought it would be.

Munir completed a two-year degree in accounting in order to enhance his employability, but still struggled to find work. But he kept at it, knowing that sooner or later things would come together.

When Munir found Fedcap Rehabilitation Services—a company of The Fedcap Group—he experienced a work environment where his abilities, skills and talent were in demand. And the thing about Fedcap was that they kept encouraging him to do more, to advance, to save and to really establish a plan for his future.

Today, Munir is Project Lead for the Data Entry Team on the NYC Department of Finance contract in Jamaica, Queens, where he is in charge of reporting, quality assurance, training and audits. This is a huge job with significant responsibility—and Munir was up for the task.

In his home country Munir had been a successful sought after professional, working in accounting and bookkeeping. However, in New York, as a person with a disability in a wheelchair, he faced significant barriers to employment—including stigma, inaccessible workplaces and significant transportation challenges.

“Fedcap didn’t focus on my disability—they only cared about my abilities! They saw in me the strength and talent others did not. My work
allows me to be self-sufficient and to support my family. I love being part of a diverse team that is making the world a better place.”

Cameron and Community Work Services: “It was hard, but CWS filled me with motivation and determination.”

Cameron and Community Work Services: “It was hard, but CWS filled me with motivation and determination.”

Cameron Corbert was adopted at a young age. He became very close to his adoptive father, whom he describes as his best friend, mentor, and one of the best people he ever met. The father passed away when Cameron was a teenager, after his adoptive mother passed away years earlier. The losses were devastating for Cameron, who was put in custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families and moved to various group homes. He attended seven different high schools.

“It was very disruptive,” Cameron said. “It was hard to stay close to people and I felt cut off. It was hard to pay attention at school because I knew I would be moving soon.”
After aging out of DCF Cameron was homeless for five years, living on the streets, making friends with the wrong kind of people and getting into trouble. He signed back into DCF and was accepted into a pre-independent living program, but wasn’t ready to accept the help and support he needed; he didn’t know how to trust people, the result of all the disruptions in his life and the experience of living on the street.
A housing counselor found Cameron a job at the Breaktime Café, which led him to CWS and the Double Impact Initiative. At CWS Cameron found support and encouragement, and an important mentor in Chef Gregg.
“I don’t think I would have stayed in the job if it wasn’t for Chef Gregg,” Cameron said. “It was hard but he filled me with motivation and determination, and made me want to come to work every day. I don’t know where I would be today without CWS.”
Cameron became a youth advocate, helping other homeless youth who are seeking direction just as he had. “I came into this program with a very open mind,” he said. “If I’m in a new learning environment I always try to get something out of it, either life skills or general information, and I try to learn and adapt.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the CWS Double Impact Initiative with Breaktime began preparing meals for first responders and food-insecure participants in Boston-area communities in crisis. Cameron became a program supervisor—he worked really hard, and the position that has turned into a fulltime job! He duties as a supervisor include driving a delivery truck, scheduling deliveries, doing errands for other supervisors and taking over shifts if other workers are absent.
Cameron has a housing voucher, but as he works to overcome his trust issues he prefers not to live with a roommate, and is staying with a friend until he can find his own apartment.
Cameron is in a good place right now. He is working at CWS as Youth Outreach Coordinator. He feels very fortunate to have had mentors in his life, and has prioritized helping others and giving back, which was how his dad lived his life. Cameron’s message to other youth who are homeless or struggling is to stay positive, and avoid the mind blocks that prevent you from seeking out a better life “For me to get out of my homeless situation I had to get out of my comfort zone. I had food, friends and different places to stay when I was homeless, but most of my friends were gangsters and bad things happened. You should never get comfortable in the streets or in a shelter. I understand how you can feel comfortable and supported around others who are in the same situation, but you have to expect more out of life and work hard to get it.”

David Bobbit

David Bobbit

“Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Barack Obama

There’s a lot about his job that David Bobbit loves, but three things stand out. “I love the work itself, I love cleaning,” he said. “I love how everyone at Fedcap and at work always treats you with respect and fairness, and I love the staff.”

David, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, has come a long way. Prior to joining Fedcap a little over 10 years ago, he was at a low point in his life. He had experienced personal tragedies and became depressed. Working for minimum wage at a small cleaning company, David worried about his future direction and how he would be able to support his daughter. His counselor from Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) suggested that he apply for a job at Fedcap, saying it could provide him with the sense of purpose and independence he was seeking. David knew a little about Fedcap. His brother worked there—and still does.

David always enjoyed cleaning—he had “a thing for it”, he said. He loved making people happy by doing a good job. He also saw that working for Fedcap would help him provide for his daughter and become more independent. He applied for a job as a custodian and was hired.

David met David nine years ago, well before David’s move to 130 Livingston Street NYC MTA Headquarters 130 Livingston Street Plaza. He pegged David as a future leader because David always took the initiative in going above and beyond the work at hand, always took ownership of the job and never stopped trying to grow and improve. “If he had a question he always called me and asked for advice,” David said. “He always wanted to do more than what was required.”

David was an excellent worker from the get-go—upbeat, friendly and hardworking—and over time showed remarkable personal and professional growth. His skill in all facets of cleaning were evident early on and he perfected them over time. He greatly improved his social and communication skills, and became much more outgoing. Now he is a favorite among clients and staff alike.

“My staff and I consider David to be family at the Simlab,” said Anthony James, Senior Director, Operations Training, Train Simulator Lab. “His diligence and unwavering attention to detail leave us assured and pleased, knowing he will get the job done without fail.”

Adds Heather Gupton, Manager, Department of Security, NYC MTA: “Mr. Bobbit is gracious and performs his duties with a smile. He is also very personal. He greets each employee and always takes a few minutes out of his schedule to ask how everyone is doing.”

David consistently developed close working relationships with his co-workers and in the process mastered an entirely new skill–training new employees. Taking on this new responsibility over and above his job description, David has trained close to 100 new workers, teaching them best practices for buffing, stripping and waxing, how to clean restrooms, and how to work around
people and save cleaning the busiest areas for last.

As a committed and expert trainer, David learned over time that everyone has areas in which they are skilled as well as areas where they need to improve. Someone may be great at cleaning corners, for example, but need improvement in buffing. David believes that every moment on the job offers a new opportunity for learning. He tells new employees to always work smart, to do the right thing even when no one is looking, to be effective in time management and to be professional at all times.

“David is very reliable and very resourceful,” said John Savelli, Facility Manager at NYC MTA Headquarters 130 Livingston Street Plaza. ”He looks forward to coming into work and puts 110 percent into his job. “He is very outgoing and kind, and always willing to help out. It’s a real pleasure to work with him.”

Adds Andy Garcia, Supervisor for Fedcap at 130 Livingston Plaza: “David always has a positive attitude, is always neat and clean and is always willing to do whatever you ask of him. He’s a smart guy, very punctual, and his work quality is consistently excellent.”

David is always open to suggestions from his supervisors. He is always ready to work with them and to learn a different technique. He has always had good relationships with customers—as a result, whenever an issue comes up they communicate easily about it and resolve it in short order. How has David become such a good team leader and trainer, and a shining example of excellence and commitment on the job?

“I always try to be honest with people and encourage them to get the job right,” he said. “I tell them never to cut corners, to leave no stone unturned and to work hard but work smart.”

Jonathan Colon

Jonathan Colon

“The voice that always told me I was going to fail is not as strong now, so I pushed it away and focused on what I had to do.”

Jonathan Colon passed the food handlers certification test on May 30th – a major milestone for the 28-year-old Bronx man, who has overcome a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression to graduate from Fedcap’s culinary arts program.

It’s been a hard road for Jonathan, who grew up in the Bronx with his parents and four sisters, a close and loving family. There were dark clouds – Jonathan always felt a little uneasy and out of place. A bicycle accident in kindergarten shattered his elbow and caused nerve damage, triggering and deepening his struggle with depression. Jonathan hated the thought of being a burden to his family, and withdrew. Over time, he had suicidal thoughts.

“I started getting anxious when I was around people, and didn’t want to talk to anybody. No matter what I did I always felt sad, but I realized I couldn’t always be sad around my family and friends. I didn’t want to bring them down. I didn’t confide in anyone, so I put on a fake smile.”

Jonathan’s family became aware of his distress after an incident at the Bronx Zoo. “We usually got to the zoo early when it wasn’t too crowded, but this time we stayed longer. The crowd started to get to me, and I broke down, just froze. My family got me away from the crowd and we left. I told them what I was dealing with, that what I had been feeling for a long time.”

In school Jonathan kept to himself, and was bullied for it. He skipped classes but still graduated. He got his first job, stocking shelves on the night shift at Toys R Us.

“I knew I needed a job because I wasn’t going to college. I needed to be an adult, and lied to myself that I was ready for it. The truth is I felt so out of place I was so nervous and stressed out. I was in a very dark place.”

Jonathan avoided coworkers whenever possible. Every time he made a mistake he became depressed, and couldn’t work. Wanting to succeed, but being unable to, only added to his depression. Jonathan quit his job after a week and spent the next few years in his room at his mother’s house, hiding from the world.

“I felt like I wasn’t good enough, so I stopped trying,” he said. Jonathan’s mother found a therapist for him.

“At times I felt like I couldn’t trust this person, and that if I opened up I would be a target again. I began to open up to her and started to feel better, not so far into hating myself.”

Jonathan shared a dream with his therapist – that one day he might open up his own restaurant, a bar and grill that catered to a young crowd. Barbecues at the beach with his family had instilled a love of cooking in him. The therapist told him about Fedcap’s culinary arts program, saying it might be for him.

Just thinking about work triggered Jonathan’s fears and anxieties, but he was encouraged to try. He did, and after evaluation and testing, began culinary training on January 8th, 2018. Jonathan was inspired by the energy and support of culinary instructor Chef Lex.

“He was always communicating, and would always show me how to do things better if I made a mistake. When I spoke to him about taking the food handlers test he had so much faith and confidence in me. He said I would be fine. Hearing that from someone I respect so much put me in a good place, and I was ready for the test.”

“The culinary training program has been amazing. “I learned about new types of cooking and new flavor combinations, and got some experience catering. The minute I start cooking I feel good about myself, and I’m so busy I don’t think about being depressed.”

Jonathan is apprehensive about reentering the workforce, but he knows he can do it. He no longer has suicidal thoughts, and when he hears the inner voice tell him he’s not good enough, he has new strategies to manage it.

“I feel confident I can do this. I am hoping after I graduate I have a job. I want to work my way up, and I want to push myself.”

“With the support of Chef Lex and my therapist I am in a place where I feel stable. When I graduate I want to have a job I feel confident that I can get a job. I want to work my way up, and really push myself. My parents are proud of me and they’re planning to attend my graduation from the culinary program. ”