What kind of impact is the South Florida Anchor Alliance having on people in our region?
Huneil Campbell received coaching and resume assistance through an Alliance pilot program in Broward.
Huneil Campbell, an industrial manufacturing machinist living in Pompano Beach, was laid off just days after South Florida shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being unemployed left him depressed and fearful he would no longer be able to help his family in Jamaica, who he financially supports. “I was looking everywhere for a job, but I was getting turned down over and over again,” he said. “I felt helpless.”
Tiffany Vigil, a young single mom of three daughters, ages three to seven, worked as a housekeeping supervisor at a major hotel conglomerate in Miami—but she lost her job during that time too. “There were nights I couldn’t sleep,” she recalls. “I thought: Oh my God, my kids! How am I going to survive and provide them with a safe home?”
Rose Jean, a passionate entrepreneur who owns a Miami-based custom t-shirt printing company, was terrified watching her business dwindle as customers cancelled order after order when the pandemic brought the economy across the country to a halt. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she remembers. “I was afraid I was going to lose everything I’d built.”
Campbell, Vigil and Jean — three lives and livelihoods upended by pandemic economics. But that’s not the only thing they have in common.
All of them were able to land firmly on their feet thanks to the work of the South Florida Anchor Alliance, a coalition of 19 of the region’s largest institutions (think, healthcare and education systems as well as governments) that have banded together to harness their collective economic power to intentionally invest in making South Florida’s local economy more inclusive, particularly for low-income communities.
Launched by the Health Foundation in partnership with Citi in 2019, members of the Alliance focus on two core areas: first, how their respective institutions can prioritize procuring from local and minority-owned small business suppliers. Second, what they can do to create more well-paying jobs for vulnerable individuals and communities.
Tiffany Vigil landed steady work at a Miami-Dade County Public School thanks to an Alliance workforce program.
The uniqueness of the effort recently attracted additional funding from Citi Foundation: in December 2021, they selected the Health Foundation as the recipient of a $500,000 grant — specifically in support of the Alliance. The distinction was part of the Citi’s Community Progress Makers Initiative, which supported visionary organizations across the U.S. that are working to connect low-income communities and communities of color to greater social and economic opportunity.
The Alliance has launched various pilot programs to advance their work. One program focuses on workforce development, supporting partnerships between anchor institutions and community-based organizations to connect residents in their respective communities to hard-to-fill jobs at anchor institutions. Another: a Florida International University incubator program for minority-owned businesses designed to help entrepreneurs become more resilient and equip them to land contracts with large anchor institutions.
Rose Jean did the seemingly impossible: she grew her business in the middle of the pandemic through an Alliance small business pilot.
These early pilots have already proved to have a positive impact — especially on the lives of Campbell, Vigil and Jean.
When is job hunt continued to come up dry, Campbell, the machinist, reached out to the Urban League of Broward County, one of the community-based organizations that received pilot funding through the Anchor Alliance. They helped him rewrite his resume, develop a personal story to help him pitch himself to potential employers, and even staged mock interviews with him. It was a matter of weeks before he landed a job as a part-time park aide at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach. Then, two more jobs came his way. Now, he balances them all and says “it’s a really good feeling to be working again and to be able to help my family.”
Vigil, the young mom, spent much of pandemic unable to find steady work, instead cleaning houses now and then in order to make ends meet. In September of 2021, the workforce development pilot operated by another Anchor Alliance partner, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, matched her with a job as a part-time custodian at Broadmoor Elementary School. Relieved to have a regular paycheck, Vigil now works mornings at Broadmoor so she can pick up her daughters from school. She’s also enrolled in classes to get her substitute teaching certificate “because I see the opportunity this has given me. I want to take it and I want to give back.”
And Jean, the t-shirt entrepreneur, has done the seemingly impossible: in the midst of the pandemic, she actually expanded her business. Through a small business incubator at Florida International University, also one of the Anchor Alliance’s programs, she learned new online marketing techniques, was encouraged to grow her product line, and connected to clients and opportunities. The program also helped her apply for and receive a small business loan that allowed her weather the economic storm and, most important, got her ready to take on even bigger accounts. “They opened my eyes, and it has been a transformation,” Jean said. “They made me look at my business in a different way and because of that I am ready for what’s next.”
Words by Betty Cortina-Weiss | Photography by Felipe Cuevas