The late Ronald Reagan once said, “the best social program is a job,” and while Tonya Ridley couldn’t be characterized as a Reagan conservative, she does put into practice the former president’s quote each day as the CEO and program coordinator for her firm, Time for Change.
Time for Change (TFC) operates as a community-based 501-C3 agency in Ward 8 whose mission consists of eradicating homelessness and crime by way of clinical employment services.
“Some individuals believe that vocational rehabilitation is for the difficult to manage: the sick and ill-inspired,” Ridley said. “Time for Change firmly believes that this is not the case. TFC collaborates with individuals who have had minor setbacks in their educational and/or vocational careers.
“We work with individuals to reestablish their hope of what they once thought was a lost; motivation or just traction in gaining success in the meaningful activity of work,” Ridley said. “We provide therapeutic interventions to reformed and conditioned behavior through a client-centered approach.”
At-risk youth and young adults are TFC’s main constituency. Ridley understands that at-risk individuals often don’t have the social skills and experiences to get and keep employment and her agency has come up with programs to deal with those deficiencies.
During the intake/assessment phase, a client will complete a work plan designed to measure career goals and to determine the pathway to a job. The team coordination stage focuses on meeting the everyday needs of the client, including their medications, medical and housing concerns.
The job development process consists of working with the client on writing a resume, cover letter or completing an employment application. The process is complemented with maintaining relationships with 250 employers in the Washington, D.C. area that could hire the client.
The work adjustment training focuses on educating the client about being employed with group sessions that address topics such as mediation management, time management, coping skills and the role of the employee. The benefits counseling stage works with the client to see that they are getting all of the assistance, governmental or private, that they are due.
“TFC acknowledges we work with the most vulnerable populations who may collect Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid and Medicare and even housing vouchers,” Ridley said. “We provide professional benefits counseling to ensure that our clients are fully aware of how work may or may not affect these benefits.”
The job placement step connects the client with a job and closely monitors them during the first 90 days.
Ridley, who holds a B.S. degree in psychology and a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University, has worked as a program manager for the Pathways to Housing DC and a care coordinator for the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health. She said her education and work experience have prepared her to help her clients at TFC.
While helping clients get ready for the world of work takes up a lot of her time, Ridley also has a trade school. A priority of the school at this point will be training residents to be nursing home employees.
“Many nursing homes in Ward 8 and east of the Anacostia River are understaffed,” Ridley said. “There is no trade school in Ward 8 that trains people in the nursing home field. I decided to do something about that because people should not have to leave the ward to get trained in that field.”
Ridley said there are spaces open for anyone in the nursing home program.
Ridley said she is committed to helping Ward 8 but acknowledges that community assistance will be welcomed.
“We need individual donors to continue the mission and work of TFC,” Ridley said. “Any level of support will be appreciated.”