Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Each year, individuals facing employment challenges due to mental health or addiction issues receive paid on the job training or full-time employment at ProMail, a social venture of The Providence Center (TPC). Since 1988, ProMail has provided reliable mailing, assembly and fulfillment services, following a business model of providing clients with hands-on experience in an effort to gain independence.
“It’s really about providing employment and training opportunities for people who have any barriers to employment – mental health issues, incarceration, alcohol, or substance use – anyone that needs a safe place when landing back in the workforce,” said Jill Tavares, manager of ProMail. “It’s our job to make them feel comfortable and welcome when they are working.”
Tavares, who joined the ProMail team in 1989, has played a key role in the company’s growth over the past two decades. While ProMail originally handled TPC mailings only, its team of dedicated workers now serves the entire state of Rhode Island and manages mailings for big contracts like Hasbro, RI Commerce Corporation, Worldways Social Marketing, and more.
“We were recently awarded a 1-3 year contract with RI Commerce,” said Tavares. “We mail out their tourism guides as well as provide storage for them and fulfill bulk orders as they arrive on a weekly basis.”
For these and other contracts, ProMail provides services such as bulk mailing, data management, warehousing and storage.
“Because of our mission, our niche is hand assembly and fulfillment,” said Tavares. “We do a lot of cross training here to help provide people with more opportunities.”
The main goal at ProMail is to provide interns with as many skills as possible so they can then be placed in a fitting career with the support of TPC’s Wellness, Employment, and Education (WEE) staff. Some of these skills include labeling, data entry, ink-jet addressing, mailing list maintenance, and packaging and shipping.
“This is a real work environment where high quality and productivity levels must be maintained as part of the training,” added Tavares. “Meeting customer’s expectations and demands are something that is very important to us.”
In the last year alone, ProMail addressed over 2 million pieces of mail.
All of ProMail’s interns are referred by TPC and have participated in intensive training and employment readiness skills. Interns are paid for a total of 30 hours work time and are assessed on their soft skills such as punctuality, ability to dress professionally and communication. After 10 days of training, a report is sent to WEE who then helps the client update their resume and find a job that’s appropriate for their skill base.
“We’ve had a number of interns graduate from our program and continue to work with us full time – some have been working here for over 15 years now,” said Tavares. “My philosophy is there’s nothing wrong with working at the same place if you enjoy it.”
While 90% of ProMail is run by TPC clients, 10% of its staff has no affiliation to TPC and no mental health or substance use issues.
“This group of staff is very important for the success of a social enterprise like ours,” said Tavares. “They make ProMail more of a real-world work experience. When people come into work they’re no longer talking about their therapy sessions; they’re talking about what they watched on TV last night, or what they made for dinner.”
Over the years, hundreds of TPC clients have successfully completed ProMail’s training program and moved on to work in fields complementary of their skillsets. In doing this, many have been able to maintain recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues.
To learn more about this social enterprise and all of the services it provides, click here.
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