In an effort to reduce economic inequality in Maryland communities, the Baltimore Ravens announced on December 11 that the franchise and its players are contributing $100,000 to Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF), an independent nonprofit organization that focuses on eliminating economic barriers and creating pathways for low-income workers to prosper. The donation will directly assist jobseekers in finding high-paying jobs in the construction industry through JOTF's Project JumpStart program.
Through a partnership between JOTF and Associated Builders & Contractors, the program offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and prepare for a successful career in construction as they learn plumbing, carpentry and electrical skills. Since the program’s founding in 2006, more than 80 percent of graduates have secured quality jobs in the construction industry.
"As players, we constantly talk about the importance of giving back to our community and the best way to do that," Ravens safety Anthony Levine Sr. stated. "Through our Social Justice Fund, we are honored to partner with JOTF in support of Project JumpStart to assist in the much-needed training and job placement of many deserving people in Maryland.”
The goal of the program is to help Baltimore residents with a high school diploma or GED find stable, well-paying jobs that can push them out of the cycle of poverty. Project JumpStart’s 14-week pre-apprenticeship program consists of 29 classes and is designed to train aspiring electricians, plumbers and carpenters in technical skills like accountability, skills mastery and mathematics in order to secure construction jobs that pay more than $50,000 annually.
JOTF also works to develop public policy initiatives that promote the workforce needs of employers and that improve fair access to economic opportunities for Maryland's low-income, low-skilled workers. JOTF's public policy priorities include adult education, post-secondary access and affordability, incarceration’s impact on workers, skills training, transportation, and wages and benefits.
"JOTF is thrilled to receive the support of the Baltimore Ravens," JOTF executive director Caryn York stated. "At JOTF, our unique approach partners program and policy, coupled with data and research, to create sustainable pathways to economic mobility for Maryland’s low-wage workers. We remain intentional about transforming the systems that create and perpetuate barriers to education and employment."
This past spring, the NFL approved funding for a social justice initiative in partnership with the newly formed Players Coalition that allows each team to create a charitable fund and match player contributions up to $250,000 annually. Shortly after the budget approval, the Ravens organization and players pledged to launch their $500,000 Social Justice Fund to improve community engagement, social justice and relationships with law enforcement.
In addition to JOTF, the Ravens also granted $200,000 to Lakewood Elementary School earlier this month to cover the cost of upgrading the school’s HVAC units. The team announced it will donate the fund’s remaining $200,000 this year to nine other Baltimore organizations, including Baltimore City Police Department and Outward Bound.
The Ravens join about a dozen other NFL teams actively raising and deploying their new team funds, including the Philadelphia Eagles who recently used their social justice fund to help bail nine defendants out of jail and the Chicago Bears who were the first to max out the $250,000 team match for player contributions.