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Francine LeFrak Headshot

A Win-Win for Job Creation

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In the United States, 50 million people are living below the poverty line. In 2013 the average rate of poverty went up to 36 percent in most all of America's major cities. There are more than 10 million Americans under the age of 25 who are currently unable to find full-time work -- a number even greater than the entire population of New York City.

Let's be honest -- it's because of statistics like these that has caused us to lose a sense of pride in our own country. It is our responsibility, however, to combat these statistics. We must ask ourselves, as individuals and as businesses, what can we do to alleviate poverty? What can we do to provide jobs for people in need? What can we do to help those who are struggling?

The solution doesn't necessarily have to be selfless. It doesn't involve giving away all of your money. What it does involve is jumping right in... that means individually and corporate America.

Take the example of a large and wildly successful American corporation that wants to take on a philanthropic endeavor for the holiday season. They all decide to donate a percentage of their paychecks to a non-profit organization. They donate and receive a thank you letter. But, what's missing from this equation is the human engagement and a connection to the people they are helping. It's the involvement that becomes addicting and it's the connection that's life changing, and to deprive yourself of that engagement is a shame.

This connection comes from working on the ground, and personally training people in need of jobs. The company I founded, SAME SKY, actively seeks out women in need of employment. Our latest endeavor focuses on women living below the poverty line who recently got out of prison in Jersey City. We meet in person to provide training to hand-bead jewelry. We connect with these women as friends and mentors -- we help them rekindle their creativity, reinforce their life skills, and nurture their confidence.

Even though many of these women had made mistakes in their lives, when we gave them a positive project, they were phenomenal. We rented a kiosk at the Newport Mall in Jersey City for the women to sell their jewelry. Ironically enough, Barbara who had once been charged with shoplifting, took on the role of "Head Security" at the kiosk. Tanya and Cassie proved to be incredible sales women recruiting the most unlikely candidates to buy the jewelry. We were so pleasantly surprised to see how committed, professional and dedicated these women were at selling. They demonstrated "chutzpah" walking up to complete strangers convincing them not to miss the kiosk.

Large corporations could begin implementing like-minded programs and encourage their employees to participate in such initiatives. The result will not only help to alleviate poverty in our country, it will bring happier and more engaged employees. We can even create a whole new generation of loyal and dedicated employees.

By working on the ground, training and employing those who need help, we are taking responsibility for our country with the help of visionary politicians and enhancing our own happiness, a win-win solution for everybody.