“Once she said she was from Catholic Charities, I heard angels singing,” Tom laughs, remembering the moment back in 2016 when he first met Grace, a Job Developer in Catholic Charities’ Refugee Services Program.
Tom is the General Manager for Flying Food Group in Phoenix, a company that caters for airlines as well as has their own retail component. Flying Food Group has been named Employer of the Year by Catholic Charities Refugee Services, having employed over 40 refugees since their first introduction to the program in 2016. Tom was looking for a way for Flying Food to connect with the community as well as fill jobs he needed within the company, and Catholic Charities happened to be the perfect fit. He and Rick, the HR Manager, have been very hands-on in the process of introducing refugees to their workforce.
Refugees traditionally start in a production position, but Tom says there are unlimited places for them to grow within the company. “We had a refugee able to work up to a lead position, and that was a huge success for both of us,” Tom says.
The success did not come overnight as Rick and Tom have had to overcome challenges, including language and cultural barriers, which can make basic communication difficult.
“The first group [of refugees] had some established assumption that nobody in the United States works on weekends,” Tom laughs. “We had to take some time to explain their schedule to assure they were coming in when they were supposed to and once they did understand, they were on time.”
In spite of the challenges, Tom and Rick maintain a very positive attitude. Their patience is obvious and their dedication is inspiring. They both express empathy for their refugee employees and their circumstances.
“When you think about coming to a country where they don’t know the language, don’t know the customs and are trying to assimilate—it is so difficult to imagine what refugees are experiencing, but they are happy and smiley people,” Tom says.
“They are just like anybody else. They want to step up to the challenge, and they want to work,” Rick says. “Being named Employer of the Year is a good accomplishment for us. We want to be a place where people want to work.”
They surely have achieved that goal; Grace says refugees have already been requesting to apply to Flying Food specifically for employment. “We can always count on Tom and Rick… they are well known in the refugee community as a good place to work that offers stable long-term employment and treats its’ employees well,” she says.
Learn more about supporting Refugee Services or employing our refugees.