04/09/2013 09:27 am ET | Updated Jun 09, 2013

A Helping Hand for 'Help Wanted'

The Huffington Post JobRaising Challenge was a great experience for us. On the broadest level, we were thrilled to be one of the 74 nonprofits chosen to participate. It gave us an opportunity to share who we are and what we do.

For most individuals looking for work, a notice of Help Wanted can offer promise. But those same words can be daunting to some with a criminal conviction who is trying to reenter the job market. At the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), we are dedicated to helping former offenders transition back into the workplace. It's not easy to overcome the stigma of conviction. But we believe that anyone who wants to work should have the preparation and support needed to find a job and stay connected to the workforce.

The JobRaising Challenge fit our mission perfectly. For more than 30 years, we have been singularly focused on doing one thing: finding employment for the formerly incarcerated. The JobRaising Challenge offered us visibility to help bring that story to many new potential donors.

CEO addresses the severe joblessness these individuals face by creating immediate, paid transitional work for all our participants. This service is critical for people who have little to no job experience and who need to support themselves and their families. These crews provide structure and income, as well as skill-building opportunities and a platform for entering the full-time labor market with the support of CEO's team of job development professionals.

The CEO model has been independently proven to increase public safety; a three-year random assignment evaluation conducted by MDRC showed that CEO made statistically significant impacts on all measures of reducing recidivism. In addition to increasing public safety, the CEO model also demonstrated a return on investment to taxpayers. In other words, the program saves money. CEO's evaluation found that the program created total financial benefits of $3.80 for every $1 spent.

The JobRaising Challenge provided us with a great deal of exposure to a network of individuals who responded enthusiastically both financially and with interest in our mission.

CEO finds employment and through employment creates success stories. The definition of success to our participants may be getting a first job, first promotion, developing self-esteem and helping to support themselves and their families. We have thousands of these stories and are committed to keep them coming by helping formerly incarcerated individuals make the difficult transition to self-sufficiency.

CEO was thrilled to partake in the Huffington Post Job Raising Challenge. Putting Americans back to work is what we are all about.

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