Local nonprofit Working for Parents aims to make economic stability and mobility possible for all parents
Sherrisse Pacheco has always been the person who friends and acquaintances have turned to for career advice. That designation rose exponentially when the pandemic hit. Her phone was constantly dinging as friends and acquaintances reached out with one story after another. They were frustrated. They were out of work. They had lost income but had young kids at home they needed to feed and clothe…and homeschool.
“These were all frustrations that were already sort of there,” Pacheco explained. “But they were heightened by the pandemic.”
Even here in North Salem, a community generally regarded as high-income, Pacheco saw the effects, noting how many local parents who are small business owners have struggled to stay afloat. “A lot of parents have lost their businesses due to income loss from the ongoing pandemic. It’s not always about homelessness. Some of us are making decisions about paying the mortgage versus putting food in the fridge.”
Trying circumstances often breed innovation. For Pacheco, the messages she was receiving inspired her to take action. And so, in February of 2021, nearly a year after lockdown orders first took effect, Working for Parents was born.
Working for Parents is a 501c3 nonprofit that serves parents in New York State who have been hit hardest by economic, societal or structural change, according to the organization’s website. The organization is staffed by a diverse team of five women with varying degrees of professional expertise across human resources, operations, workforce training and career coaching.
“The team are all parents themselves. Most of them have been in HR for over 20 years, working for some of the country’s top businesses, and have led strategies within those companies,” Pacheco said. While the Working for Parents team possesses real-world business experience, Pacheco points out that they also have faced many of the same struggles their clients are facing.
“The team members have faced things like unemployment and homelessness. Some came from a good economic background but the pandemic put them in a place they had never experienced before.” Those real world struggles, Pacheco insists, enable the Working for Parents team to connect authentically with the parents who come to them for support and guidance.
“Our clients are working with people who can relate in real time,” Pacheco said. “We can understand when you’re just having a tough day. We cheer on parents to keep going. We care and we follow participants through the process.”
Pacheco herself has spent the past 15 years working in business operations for cultural institutions, startups and grassroots organizations. A native of the South Bronx, she knows firsthand the needs of underserved communities.
Working for Parents focuses on serving parents in New York State who are currently unemployed or are facing a financial hardship. For those individuals, the organization’s Resources for Parents program offers a 4-week session of group coaching via Zoom centered around career coaching, interviewing skills and resume writing. The organization also offers one-on-one career coaching services.
Apart from working directly with parents, Working for Parents team members liaise with community groups, businesses and policymakers to try to effect structural change. Employer engagement manager Ebony Ross-Hopkins is charged with curating a roster of businesses who are committed to implementing better policies to support parents. Such businesses are then invited to join the Working for Parents employer network, where parents can connect to find employment that meets their needs.
“We want to create this wonderful linkage to jobs that understand what parents are going through,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said that Working for Parents aims to serve around 400 parents in 2022. It’s an ambitious goal, but one she feels confident they’ll be able to meet by continuing outreach efforts among parents, businesses, communities and elected officials. “This is a real topic, a hot topic, that has been amplified by the pandemic,” Pacheco said. “It’s not always someone from an underserved community who’s affected. If you’re a parent, you’re affected, point blank.”