A $50,000 grant from the COVID-19 Community Relief Fund supported continued job training for formerly incarcerated, gang-involved individuals.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Rise Up Industries, which provides job training, counseling and other wraparound services for formerly incarcerated, previously gang-involved individuals, faced several challenges.

“With the initial impact of COVID, many of the foundations that we had applied to in the past and had supported us said that they were going to focus their giving on COVID first responders that year,” said Jonathan Yackley, Deputy Executive Director of Rise Up Industries. “That completely makes sense, but it did have the indirect impact of us losing some cash and capital to keep going.”

Going Virtual

 The Rise UP Industries Reentry Program is staffed with employees and volunteers who foremost understand, create and provide an environment that is all accepting and genuinely interested in the individual.

The nonprofit also had to temporarily shut down its social enterprise — the business side of the nonprofit’s work — that is a source of revenue and a hands-on career training opportunity for its members. Rise Up Industries prepares its members for careers in CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machining, which is a well-paying trade in high demand. When the machine shop paused in-person on-the-job training, the program had to quickly pivot.

It wasn’t easy.

“We had to move our services to virtual for a while,” Yackley said, noting all the in-person activities that went to Zoom and/or phone calls. “Some people struggled to get online, especially if you just got through serving a 30-year sentence and you haven’t had a cell phone and you don’t know how to get on Zoom. It was a major issue that we had to overcome.”

The nonprofit also had to modify its training program for some members, with staff delivering books and homework. Yackley noted the modifications weren’t ideal for preparing people to become machine operators.

Thankfully, the machine shop was considered an essential service and was able to reopen relatively quickly. Unfortunately, work had slowed down and the nonprofit faced financial difficulties.

“Some business got really slow, but it created a really important opportunity and we just had to last through those last few hard months,” Yackley said.

Finding financial stability

The Rise Up Industries program is comprehensive in order to address the needs of RUI members.

Rise Up Industries eventually found financial stability, thanks to The San Diego Foundation. Not only did it receive a $50,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Relief Fund last year, but the nonprofit also qualified for a bridge loan through Mission Driven Finance that was underwritten by The Foundation. Rise Up Industries also received a U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Since 2020 was slow for work, Rise Up Industries invested in itself.

“We took the time when we weren’t busy in the shop to have some metal products reverse engineered for a prospective customer,” Yackley said. “We figured out how to produce two specialty aftermarket auto part assemblies for a customer, and we’ve since gotten over a hundred-thousand dollars in purchase orders from that.”

That important work has sustained the social enterprise throughout 2021.

“The funding that The San Diego Foundation provided helped us to bridge that gap when cash was short and prepare us for the situation that we found ourselves in since January 2021,” Yackley said. “We are absolutely booked in our machine shop and we’re having to turn away customers. We have so much work, so many training opportunities.”

Helping members

Those leaving incarceration need a supportive community.

With current funding assured, Rise Up Industries was able to do what it does best — continue its program and efforts to help members re-enter the workforce and start a new path.

“The key component of the program is preparing the members for careers as CNC machine operators,” Yackley said. “We have not had any issues with getting our grads hired from our program… A very important part of that training is getting to practice on the job and getting to practice on actual contract work.”

With the assistance of the grant and bridge loan, the nonprofit kept quarterly enrollment stable and continued to enroll new members into its 18-month, full-time program where members receive full-time wages. It’s also considering its future.

“Our social enterprise has never been stronger and that’s really enabling us to do what we’ve wanted to do for a while,” Yackley said. “We’re looking at expanding and doubling the enrollment capacity of the program over the next few years because we have the contract work, the customers and the backlog orders to justify growing and serve more people.”

Learn more about the impact of the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.