Colorado Non-Profit Reduces Poverty by Promoting Work

Bayaud Enterprises, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado, has a simple slogan: Employment Matters. Founded in 1969, the organization helps people with significant barriers to joining the workforce receive the training and assistance necessary to find jobs and succeed professionally. This includes people recently released from prison, the disabled and the homeless.

The philosophy of Employment Matters highlights a core truth. Work brings us joy, satisfaction and purpose by being productive and providing for ourselves. Whether it is working with our hands, providing a service or solving problems, there is something in our being that is made better by creating, improving or serving. The fact that many people overwork doesn’t lead us to believe that work is inherently bad, but that overwork is an example of addiction being an unhealthy reliance on a good thing.

If we believe work is good for the individual, we should look for ways to assist those who struggle to find employment by offering the tools necessary for success in the workplace. History teaches, however, that top-down administrative programs have limited chances for success. Bayaud Enterprises is a private organization that seeks to change lives for the better by preparing people for work — one individual at a time.

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Photo: Bayaud Enterprises

“Bayaud learned many years ago that no two individuals or situations are alike,” Bayaud staff member Danielle Travis told Opportunity Lives. “To meet the needs of everyone who comes through our doors, we focus first on their immediate needs, but also their strengths.”

“To find permanent, successful employment for someone, it’s important that we focus on their strengths, instead of the barriers that have been placed before them,” Travis said. “Our mission is to help people overcome barriers to competitive employment – and we do that by approaching every person with dignity, respect and hope.”

Bayaud’s services include vocational evaluations and assessments, training in general office skills, information technology career-based training, job-seeking skills and résumé assistance. It’s more than a placement service; it’s a training regimen to prepare individuals for job and career success.

A single mother named Latoya is one of Bayaud’s success stories. After subsisting on welfare checks for three years, Latoya was referred to Bayaud. She already held a medical assistant certificate. She completed Bayaud’s general office skills training program to help round out her professional skills. Today, Latoya is fully employed.

Employment is not only good for individuals and their families, but for the community as a whole. It is the best path out of homelessness, leading to a future of self-sufficiency. It helps families stay together by keeping people out of prison.

“The effects of individuals achieving self-sufficiency are far reaching,” Travis explained. “A successful individual supports their family, contributes to their community, and diminishes the need for emergency services. All of these factors improve the community as a whole.”

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Rather than relying strictly on donations, Bayaud operates several businesses to help pay for its programs. | Photo: Bayaud Enterprises

Bayaud is also breaking the mold with how it raises money. The organization operates a few businesses, such as a paper shredding service, that generate income to help pay for its programs, in addition to providing employment training opportunities.

“Bayaud Enterprises is a social enterprise, which means that we operate several business ventures that support our charitable mission,” Travis said. “We consider about 90 percent of our income as earned income, with only about 10 percent coming from donations. Donations are incredibly valuable, but we have learned that a sustainable business model will help us ensure that our services are available for years to come.”

From its mission of removing barriers to the workforce to its operation of businesses to pay for their services, Bayaud Enterprises has harnessed the power of work, productivity and purpose to help share each of those with the disenfranchised in their community.

Johnny Fugitt is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. His new book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, chronicles his journey to 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states in a year. You can follow him on Twitter @johnnyfugitt.