For years, Frontier Co-op has supported a number of local nonprofits, including Catherine McAuley Center and Willis Dady Homeless Services. The two organizations provide shelter, support and resources for some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and the Co-op became an enthusiastic supporter of this work.
In 2018, when unemployment rates reached historic lows, these organizations still had plenty of clients who were eager to work and in need of employment. Because Frontier Co-op is always on the lookout for new ways to give back, they saw in the situation a great opportunity.
The program that emerged from the partnership offered apprenticeships and living wages to women in need, immigrants, refugees, formerly incarcerated individuals and people facing homelessness. The steady employment, along with support services from Catherine McAuley Center and Willis Dady, provided a new sense of hope for program participants.
“Income is fundamental to people being stable in housing,” said Emily Zimmon, Support Services Director at Willis Dady. “We can help people get into housing, but if they don’t have a steady income, they’re not going to be stable and it kind of creates that cycle of getting into and out of homelessness.”
“We had to step out of our comfort zone, be creative and be a part of the solution,” said Tony Bedard, Chief Executive Officer of Frontier Co-op. “I don’t care about their past. I care about the present and future. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
A year later, the program has responded to challenges to meet the needs of everyone involved. Because Frontier is located in Norway, Iowa, transportation to and from the plant is provided by Willis Dady and subsidized by the Co-op. Apprentices also have access to the company’s café at lunchtime to ensure they’re being sustained through their eight-hour shifts.
Over 70 people have participated in the apprenticeship program, and more than a dozen of those have achieved full-time employment at Frontier. Given the success of this program, Willis Dady continues to look for partners that may be interested in employing their clients.