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Beyond the Sanctuary Gets Funding For Job Readiness to Uplift Local Families 

Tyronda James

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Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church’s Beyond the Sanctuary (BTS) organization recently received funding of $525,000 to support underemployed individuals through BTS’s Job Readiness Success Program (JRSP). 

“Educator and reformer Booker T. Washington said, ‘If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.’ Beyond the Sanctuary embodies those famous words,” said BTS Board Chair and Memorial AME Zion Church Pastor Derrill Blue. 

“We strive to lift up our community through transformative programs and services that provide essential support and resources.”

Pastor Blue, volunteers and church members of the historic Memorial A.M.E Zion Church were joined by Congressman Joe Morelle to announce the endowment for JRSP. 

Pastor Blue said the grant positions the organization to continue serving the community, allowing them to train and empower BTS program participants as they strive and be self-sufficient.

The funding will support Beyond the Sanctuary’s Job Readiness Success Program and allow 50 unemployed, underemployed, hard-to-employ individuals—particularly from underserved communities—to become thriving, self-sufficient adults, according to the organization’s release.

JRSP’s support services focus on both hard and soft skills needed for success in high-demand live-able wage fields, it include:

  • Life Skills/Jobs Coaching.
  • Health/Wellness Coaching.
  • Business Liaison Support.
  • Social Service Referral.
  • Emergency Stipends.

Congressman Joe Morelle partnered with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York to secure the grant through the federal Community Project Funding program, which allows congressional members to provide direct investments to areas of communities that need it most. 

Beyond the Sanctuary President & Executive Director Carmen Allen said the organization is grateful for Morelle’s partnership and support of BTS since their founding nearly five years ago.

“We started as a food pantry that served the needs of community members in crisis. Today, we offer clients a spectrum of programs, including JRSP that helps adults transition from crisis and dependence to a life of self-sufficiency,” Allen said. 

Thanks to the funding, Allen said with their dedicated and talented JRSP team, they will be able to help more people overcome barriers encountered on their journey to meaningful employment.

BTS has collaborative partners from Rochester Educational Opportunity Center and Rochester Construction Training Center who will train participants in construction, Licensed Practical Nursing, Emergency Medical Technician, Sterile Processing Technician and Pharmacy Technician fields. 

Throughout the first year of employment, JRSP coaches and staff will partner with employer-based Program Advocates continuing work with program participants to foster their success.  Each candidate will be paired with mentors and coaches who will assist with social skills, job search assistance, health assessment, and business communications. Each candidate will have a team supporting them before, during, and after employment, according to the BTS website.

“Beyond the Sanctuary’s work in Rochester is so important. In addition to providing food, clothing and rental assistance, their Job Readiness Success Program allows participants the chance to flourish, become self-sufficient and earn a living wage,” Morelle said. “By providing participants with the support and resources to be career-ready, we can address the ongoing worker shortage, help families thrive, and uplift our community.”

Schumer said he was glad to join Morelle with the investment to help BTS expand their work and says  Beyond the Sanctuary is a vital force in the community. 

“Created by the congregants of Rochester’s historic Memorial AME Zion Church to lift people out of poverty. …Their dedicated work is enabling community members to overcome the physical and emotional challenges of poverty to become self-sustaining.”

For more information on the program application, please visit