The organization’s website says it all: “Hopeworks ‘N Camden is a non-profit, youth development organization in Camden, NJ, but don’t let that fool you!”
It’s also a team of businesses, where Hopeworks trainees, ages 14 to 23, are hired to perform services like GIS surveys, website design and Salesforce.com development to organizations like local water company United Water and the Cherry Hill Rotary Club.
Founded more than a decade ago by Jesuit priest Father Jeff Putthoff with support from other pastors, Hopeworks’ model has provided roughly 250 jobs to Camden’s youth. This summer alone, it worked with sponsors to create 30 paying jobs, including a social media project with St. Luke’s Medical Center and a nutrition education program with Philadelphia’s Food Trust. Hopeworks’ team of 15 staffers teaches technology skills to participants and coordinates the numerous trainee jobs.
Putthoff says he came up with the idea for Hopeworks because he wanted to do something to combat Camden’s nearly 70 percent high school drop out rate. He thought technology would be a great way to do it, since young people could learn certain skills and practice them immediately, rather than say, a building trade where you might have to apprentice for years before you can start working.
He says he didn’t have any background in technology.
“I learned everything from scratch,” he says, “so it was bloody.”
Thirty percent of Hopeworks’ overall funding comes from its businesses, Putthoff says. The rest comes from donors, grants and events.