“Everybody knows in Asheville that you get a job around here through somebody you know,” says Anthony Thomas.
That’s why Thomas created UpStaff Personnel, an offshoot of the nonprofit Green Opportunities that connects unemployed and underresourced community members with employers.
“These populations that we work with don’t have access to those networks. We really want to be a door opener for folks,” he explains.
Temporary work helps build relationships with employers that can turn into career paths for UpStaff’s clients, Thomas says. But unlike other staffing agencies, he explains, the company also provides employees with a network of support, including transportation, child care and counseling.
“Whether it’s a domestic violence situation or something that came up with the criminal justice system, we serve as that middle person to have that conversation about what’s going on,” Thomas says. “I don’t think that you’ll find a temporary agency here that does that.”
Thomas hopes that what UpStaff starts as a foot in the door for employees leads them to a solid foundation for the future. “Getting a shot at those jobs cascades into people being able to buy a home or being able to move out of the environments that are probably not the best for them,” he says. “It’s just the bigger picture. Employment is just a piece of that — but if you don’t have employment, it’s a huge piece.”
Editor’s note: As part of our monthlong celebration of this region’s commitment to sustainable ways of living and working in community, Xpress is highlighting some of those who are making a difference by taking action on a variety of creative and inspiring initiatives.