Pursuing the American Dream is often like a winding road filled with detours, traffic jams, and roadblocks. For some, these obstacles present a fork in the road: proceed with determination or give up. Former Proteus, Inc. customer Angel Perez is proof that it doesn't matter how long it takes, dreams to come true. "When I was working out in the fields, I was always thinking about having my own trucking business," Perez said. "So I'm thankful for Maria Macedo and Proteus for giving me a chance and for the opportunities that are at our reach. I'm so really happy right now."

Perez was one of three Proteus, Inc. nominated recipients to win the coveted 2017 National Farmworker Job Program (NFJP) Outstanding Seasonal Farmworker award. For Perez, the news of the award was admittedly emotional. After almost ten years of picking, pruning, and tying every fruit up and down the valley, being recognized as the National Seasonal Farmworker will do that to you. But the climb to success Perez currently enjoys wasn't without difficulty. 

In October 2010, Perez decided to take his dream of owning his own trucking company into action. Proteus, Inc. Case Manager Maria Macedo, who helped nominate Perez for the award, remembers his long and twisting plight. As the sole provider for his family of six, Perez's path had many hardships. Though Proteus could only cover the $4,000 cost for United Truck Driving School, he also needed additional resources because he was unemployed. The house payments, utility bills, and insurance notes began to default. Nevertheless, with his heart set on his goal, Perez again turned to Proteus, where he could receive the financial assistance he needed. Perez eventually finished his training, but one final roadblock tried to dissuade him from his goal.

When Perez went to take the Class A License Test, he could not pass the vision portion of the test. According to Macedo, while working in the fields and with no health insurance, Perez had never had a physical before, so he never knew he needed glasses. Again, facing a financial burden, Perez turned to Proteus for help. "He is very thankful for the opportunity and for everything we have done for him," Macedo said. "There was no way he was going to pay for the tuition, for the eyeglasses. He was unemployed and falling behind. I'm just glad that he made it." Perez has more than made it. After getting his license, he landed his first job at Helados La Tapatia.

In 2011, he purchased his first diesel and opened A.P Transport LLC. Since then, he has purchased two more diesel, giving his company a fleet of three trucks. But Perez is not done dreaming. Within five years, he hopes to have a fleet of 10-15 diesel trucks and hopes his example proves that anything is possible. "Demonstrating to my children that if one day they want to have a business, that they can do it," Perez said. "Demonstrating to the Latinos that we can do it. So we have to dream and work hard; because that's the only way it's done."

Dalton Young pulls up at today's job site in one of the City of Lemoore's maintenance work trucks. He's part of the crew that is hard at work leveling the ground at the city's sewer plant on the edge of town. As part of that crew, he's been at the controls of the excavator filling up a dump truck with the excess dirt that he will take to a part of the plant that needs filling. The storms that have hit the Valley recently have made this job a top priority. As part of the maintenance crew for the City of Lemoore, there are plenty of projects and cleanups to stay busy. From maintaining the city drains of leaf buildup to repairing water lines and laying cement, the unpredictability is one of the reasons Dalton Young loves his new job. But just a few months ago, Young was thrust into a whirlwind of uncertainty.

On November 15, 2018, Young's home was in the direct path of the destructive Camp Fire that burned wildly through Northern California and the town of Truckee. "I was truck driving, and I remember getting the call that we had to evacuate. I went home, and we packed the truck as best we could." Young said. "I got stuff I knew we'd needed like clothes and dishes. Everything there is now gone. Some people lost everything." Young estimates that he only had a total of 9 hours to get his family out from the time of the evacuation announcement. In that time, they had to figure out what stuff to take, who to notify, and, more importantly, where to go. "At the moment, I was scared," Young remembered. "I felt like I let my family down because, at the time, I didn't have any money saved up. I had my kids and my wife, and I thought to myself, what do I do? How do I take care of them? I know my wife understood the situation, but it was stressful." So then, Young and his family decided to move to Lemoore to be closer to his wife's parents. It was also decided that once they got there, they would hit the ground running to find a job so they could get a place of their own.

Five days into their job search, Young had found the Hanford Proteus, Inc. office. "When I went in there, I asked the lady at the desk if they had jobs available that I could apply for. I explained to her that I just moved out here from the fires," Young said. "From there, I filled out the paperwork, and about a week later, they called me that they had found a job for me." Along with being a truck driver, Young also worked on irrigation pumping systems in the farming areas around Truckee. His experience in irrigating allowed Guadalupe Cornell-Lopez, Proteus, Inc. Program Support Specialist to qualify Young for services through the Flood Storm program. The program is a temporary employment program funded by La Cooperativa Campesina de California. Its goal is to provide relief to Kings County residents and Kings County organizations. Proteus, Inc. provides temporary employment to eligible Kings County residents throughout this program. It places them at organizations that need help in cleanup efforts to avoid flooding following a devastating multi-year drought. In turn, employers receive free labor with the program paying the customers' wages and covering worker's compensation. As a result, Dalton Young has used the experience he already had to good use for the City of Lemoore.

He's also obtained some new skills and job duties that he never thought he would. It's a program that John Souza, City of Lemoore Utility Manager is grateful to be a part of. "There are a lot of jobs in the city that we'd like to get done, and sometimes we just don't have the extra labor to do it," Souza said. "This program has allowed us to have extra hands. It's very helpful plus it gives these people coming in the chance to learn new skills, making them more well-rounded and more hirable for more jobs. It's just an awesome program" Cornell-Lopez remembers overhearing Young tell her colleague how he was affected by the fires and just wanted a job so he could provide for his family. It tugged at her heart. "He was very thankful for the help that we gave him," Cornell-Lopez said. "I'm glad that I could help and put him in a position where he could provide for his family. For me, being able to say I was able to help somebody who needs it makes me happy." It wasn't too long ago that Dalton Young had to uproot his family and flee a raging fire in an instant. He didn't know what the future held, but one thing he was sure of, he was glad that they chose to move to Lemoore and walk into that Hanford Proteus office. "I honestly didn't think there was a program out there like Proteus," Young said. "It changes people's lives. I know my life will be changed big time if the city hires me because this is a retirement job with good benefits. I put my faith and trust in God, and now I feel so blessed." Dalton Young has enjoyed his time working for the City of Lemoore. He hopes to be hired by them when he finishes his program.

For information on how to see if you qualify for the Flood Storm Program or a business in Kings County that wants to participate in this program, call our Hanford Proteus Office at 559-582-9253.

A Proteus Gem

Martin Mora Jr.

 

When meeting Martin Mora Jr. for the first time, you are instantly drawn to his easy charm and huge smile. Tall, clean-cut, and professionally dressed, Martin is the epitome of a great first impression.  Spend some time with him, though, and his infectious laugh and positive attitude captivates you beyond first impression.

 

Proteus staff got a different first impression of Martin when he walked into the Fresno Service Center in 2010 looking for work.  Nineteen at the time, Martin wore long hair, baggy clothes, and a hat turned to the side. He had no work experience, no vehicle, and unstable living conditions.  What Martin lacked in first impression, he made up in determination.

 

Initially, not qualifying for the Department of Labor (DOL) farmworker program, Martin went out and found employment as a farmworker harvesting fruit during the heat of the summer until he could qualify.  He returned to Proteus and enrolled in paid work experience and began training as an office assistant at the Proteus Fresno Service Center. With supportive services for work attire, Martin reported to training on the first day looking professional and confident.  The transformation was remarkable. Through training, Martin learned many transferrable office skills, such as answering multi-line phones, assisting customers with completing forms, resumes, on-line applications, communicating eligibility requirements, and outreach.  After finishing six months of training, Martin was able to get a place of his own, obtain a driver’s license, purchase a vehicle, and find full-time employment.

 

Today, Martin has been employed for the past two years at Quickeroo, a grocery store catering to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients.  He started in a customer service position, but was quickly promoted to store manager at a new location in Selma. “I love being able to help other people in need, and that is what Quickeroo does.  Families are able to receive food at a discounted price,” shares Martin. Visiting Martin’s store, you can see the love and care he puts into it. The shelves are impeccably stocked and organized, and the floors and counters pristine.  Equal attention is given to his customers. He personally packs and delivers each grocery bag to his customers’ cars- all with that same easy charm and huge smile you experience when you first meet him.

 

If you ask Martin about his childhood or upbringing, he becomes noticeably uneasy.  He nervously laughs and says he’d prefer to talk about where he is today and how Proteus has helped him.  “Proteus has not just helped me, but members of my family,” states Martin. Since coming to Proteus, he has referred his father, uncle, and brother-in-law.  His father and uncle, both farmworkers, enrolled in and completed Proteus truck driving training; and, his brother-in-law enrolled in and completed Proteus solar installation training.  Each is now gainfully employed.

 

Thank you, Martin, for allowing Proteus to serve you and for sharing your story with us.  

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