On Guy Huguelet's desk rests a motivational book, Make the Impossible Possible.
That's what he thinks Jubilee Jobs has done in this, its third year of operation in Lexington.
Jubilee Jobs, which started in Washington, is a program that offers help to people who want jobs but are held back by various problems, including homelessness, a criminal record, advanced age or ignorance of how to apply and interview for employment openings.
Huguelet, the program's executive director, wants employers to see it this way: Everybody deserves a second chance. And either the people without jobs will support themselves or, via incarceration or welfare, the state will have to do it for them.
It's sort of a realist's pitch for paying it forward.
During 2010, Jubilee Jobs' first full year of operation, 843 people attended its Monday morning orientations. The sessions begin promptly at 9 a.m. each Monday at the organization's offices, 1450 North Broadway, across the street from Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
During 2011, 555 attended orientation and 210 completed the program, which includes instruction in interview skills, conflict resolution, résumé writing, a state background check and a fitting in donated clothing appropriate for a job interview.
Of the 210 who completed the program, 103 are employed full-time.
The program now employs two job counselors in addition to Huguelet. One is a graduate of the program herself.
Jubilee Jobs, which is supported entirely by donations, depends heavily on the commitment of its participants to stay with the program, take full advantage of the training and job leads it offers, and call in every day.
Huguelet said that when an employer calls, the daily participant call list is the first resource used.
On a recent Wednesday, Huguelet coached five Jubilee Jobs participants on interview skills.
"Think of a major accomplishment that you're real proud of," he tells the four men and one woman at the table.
Huguelet moves through the interview process at a rapid clip, tossing out examples that stick in the memory. To teach the applicants why it's important to understand the company where they're applying for a job, he launches into a history of McDonald's and its founder, Ray Kroc, happening upon an early "fast-service restaurant." To illustrate why it's important to bring a notebook to an interview, he uses the example of Linus in the comic strip Peanuts, who would not be parted from his security blanket.
He tells them that tattoos and body piercings might be inevitable — "this is the 21st century" — but that keeping such ornamentation to themselves during the interview process might be the wiser course to take.
One participant in the interview session already got a job through Jubilee Jobs, but it was seasonal event-setup work. Maurice Bailey came back to reaffirm his commitment to the program and get ready for his next job.
"It's a great program," he said. "I love it. It's like one big family."
Several other participants are hoping for warehouse work, and some said they would take anything with a paycheck.
"I would like to do anything where I get paid," said Keionne Mangram.
Jubilee Jobs counselor Shay Irwin has been in their shoes.
Irwin is an alumna of the program.
She had worked for non-profit organizations in Ohio but found herself out of work. Irwin saw an article about Jubilee Jobs and decided to move to Lexington and throw herself into the program.
She got a job doing office work for a property manager and eventually returned to Jubilee as a job counselor.
"It's about the best decision I ever made," said Irwin, a single mother of two. "There's the belief and being inspired that somebody cares to help you make that change."
Jubilee collaborates with more than 200 area employers. The jobs they offer fall into four general sectors: factory/warehouse general labor, clerical, retail/restaurant, and "environmental services" including janitorial and maintenance work.
Huguelet recruits them, asking the employers to just interview a Jubilee Jobs client.
Except for the background check, all services are free.
"If you really want to make a difference, give somebody another chance," Huguelet said he tells employers he recruits to participate in the program. "The best investment you can make in your work force today is hiring somebody who needs a second chance."