BBJ: M&T provides financial support to help Roca place at-risk young men in jobs

By Holden Wilen
March 19, 2021

M&T Bank has contributed $15,000 to Roca to help the anti-violence program place at-risk young men in jobs at small businesses.

The bank’s funding will support five 40-day work slots for men in Baltimore ages 16 to 24. The positions are part of Roca’s effort to help the men leave gangs and stay off the streets.

Roca, a Massachusetts-based organization, came to Baltimore in 2018 after a fundraising push by then-Mayor Catherine Pugh. Many young men have progressed through the initial stages of Roca’s behavioral and educational program and are ready to begin working. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced available job opportunities — especially for those lacking work experience or with a criminal history.

To solve that problem, Roca created the temporary work slots so companies can take on individuals without having to offer formal employment. Midsize to large companies pay will pay an hourly wage for those 40 days. For even smaller businesses, M&T’s donation will allow Roca to cover up to $3,000 for each employee.

M&T is essentially underwriting the positions and Roca will handle the job placements, said Anna L. Smith, manager of community involvement for M&T Bank in Greater Baltimore.

“They’re doing the hard part and they know what they’re doing,” said Smith, who oversees M&T’s corporate giving locally. “The last thing they need is some banker trying to tell them what to do. The typical job would be a small landscaping company that is willing to take on one of these young men and teach them the responsibility of coming to work every day and so forth but doesn’t have the budget to pay them. That’s where our dollars come in.”

Kurtis Palermo, director of Roca Baltimore, said in a statement that the organization hopes the temporary jobs lead to permanent employment opportunities. But even a short-term job can have a long-term impact.