One would think it’s been 20 years in the making.
But actually, it’s just been a few.
On Feb. 10, Hope Services opened the doors to its state-of-the-art Life Skills & Vocational Training Center, at 5426 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
Cindy Bray, founder and executive director of Hope Services, had been set to start on the center in 2019, but COVID intervened.
Then in June 2020, HOPE Services purchased a building — just a gray shell, finished on the outside but completely unfinished inside.
Bray and her staff seized on the opportunity to design the center’s layout to best meet their training needs.
Each of the center’s six rooms is dedicated to a different type of training and profession.
The new Land O’ Lakes facility will provide training in culinary arts/food safety, construction, customer service/retail, hospitality, computers/technology and GED education.
“So, we’re really excited to get people in the building and get them trained,” Bray said. “This is a dream come true,” Bray said. “This is really my dream and vision.
“Back in 2003, this started out with just little ol’ me, and I was inspired to do HOPE Services because of my daughter, Danica, who lives with disabilities,” she said.
From that small beginning, Hope Services has built a 20-year history of helping teens and adults who have disabilities and special needs, to secure and maintain meaningful, competitive and integrated employment.
Besides providing training, HOPE Services also helps its clients to prepare for interviews, find jobs and to become more self-sufficient.
HOPE Services provides vocational evaluations, work incentive planning and assistance, on-the-job training, psychotherapy, employment services, pre-employment transition services and supported employment.
These services are provided at no charge, as HOPE Services’ funding comes entirely from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
Once a candidate is eligible to receive services from VR or the Agency, the candidate must ask to be referred to HOPE Services, which immediately begins processing them as a client.
While based in Wesley Chapel, and now Land O’ Lakes, HOPE Services also serves Hillsborough, Hernando, Pinellas, Polk and Citrus counties.
“I’m a little surprised by our size now, and we will even add more now with the (on-site) training,” Bray said.
The new center allows Hope Services to expand to help a broader range of clients.
It will now be able to provide training to home-schooled children, to those who were recently released from incarceration and even those who are now free from human trafficking.
“Really anyone that struggles with vocational skills,” Bray said. “We want to be able to give them the life skills they need to live a better life — a full life.”
The training center is designed to provide practical training, which can be useful in vocations, and in life.
One example of this at the new center is the hospitality room. It not only features a washer and dryer, but is across the hall from the restroom. This allows training in not just the service industry, but also life skills such as picking up after oneself.
“They may get a job in a hotel or hospital and need to know how to do laundry, but then they can go across the hall where the restroom is and learn how to clean the restroom,” Bray said. “Sure, no one likes to (clean a restroom), but if that’s a job they have to do, then they know how to do it.”
The training rooms also “allow students to get individual attention, and we will be able to offer that so they can get the best training possible and go out fully prepared to enter the workforce.
“Again, it’s really a dream come true.”
HOPE Services Life Skills & Vocational Training Center
Where: 5426 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Land O’ Lakes
Details: A center that provides youths and adults who have disabilities and special needs the opportunity to receive on-site training in culinary arts/food safety, construction, customer service/retail, hospitality, computers/technology and GED education.
There are training rooms within the center dedicated for various vocations, as well as a multimedia conference room for larger seminars and meetings.
Certified instructors will tailor courses to accommodate clients of all abilities, while maintaining high-quality instruction. The skills and certifications will enable individuals to earn higher wages, find sustainable careers and set a solid foundation for self-sufficiency.
Info: Visit HOPEGetsJobs.com.
Published February 22, 2023