By Angela Barbosa
Their mission is to help people by promoting personal and economic self-sufficiency through education, job training and financial literacy. That is what The Bridge to Independence & Career Opportunities (TBICO) has been doing for over 20 years.
“As our logo says, ‘Better Skills. Better Jobs. Better Lives’ because without a decent job that you can move forward in, it’s hard to really move forward in life,” said LouAnn Bloomer, President and CEO of the nonprofit organization TBICO.
“You let people raise their own children out of poverty by giving them the skills to not only get jobs, but get into career paths so they can grow. That’s the mission of TBICO, to help people become self-sufficient, to help themselves,” she explained.
One of the many successful TBICO programs is The Careers for Success, designed to serve income-eligible Hispanic women in the Greater Danbury Area to equip them with skills needed to secure employment and increase household income. The six-session program takes ten participants per session and it is offered in partnership with the Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut (CAAWC).
Everything is free of charge and open to anyone as long as they can communicate with TBICO staff in English. “They would have to be able to read, have some level of literacy. Even though they initially started for Hispanic women or essentially Latina women, anybody who is new to the English language is going to benefit from it,” Bloomer said.
To register for the program, those interested must contact Marco Cruz at CAAWC. “They approve it and then they call us to set up a time to come in for the initial testing.”
This project is funded by The Fairfield Community Foundation and The City of Danbury’s Community Development Block Grant. TBICO does not receive any federal or state funds for any of its programs. They rely on foundations, companies and private donations.
TBICO also works with the Housing Authority. They coordinate their Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which is a program for people who live in public housing or Section 8 housing. If they join that program, as their income goes up through employment, then their rent would go up. However, explains Bloomer, “If they are in the program, that increase in the rent would go into an escrow account and be matched by Housing. Over the course of three to five years, they will build a pretty big escrow account. The goal is to help them to move into fair market housing.
They also have Key Rings and Financial Literacy, programs that help people with security deposits, and to get their credit back in order, through budgeting. The Corporate Closet provides students and graduates with business appropriate clothes to wear and “feel professional and look professional,” Bloomer said.
Donations of clean seasonal clothes on hangers are always welcome, but Bloomer explains that what really helps are gift cards for the small items they do not receive through donations, such as stockings, bus passes for people to get back and forth to work and gas cards. “Those things are always important, because if people come here it’s because they don’t have a job.”
TBICO’s programs have been so successful that an Israeli nonprofit organization, Machshava Tova, has opened an office administration course in the city of Lod and will open two more in its two East Jerusalem centers for local Arab-Israeli women, with course material provided by TBICO.
For more information about volunteer opportunities, how to make a donation or to register for TBICO’s programs, please visit its website at www.tbicoworks.org or call 203-743-6695. TBICO is located at 22 Eagle Road in Danbury, CT.