Janet Frasier Blumen remembers well the day she was volunteering on a Southern Nevada food bank with an Episcopal church more than two decades ago. The sight of many sad-looking people needing help was something she will never forget.
Thus, the creation of the agency Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, otherwise known as FIT. In no time, Blumen was scheduling meetings with anyone who would listen.
“The goal of FIT has always been to help people find jobs that would generate enough money for them to support their families,” explained Blumen, who will celebrate her 40th year in Las Vegas in 2017. “I started to do research and that’s where I learned that without job training or work skills, people simply couldn’t get well-paying jobs. I interviewed about 110 people including then-Nevada Senator Richard Bryan, Governor Bob Miller, then Mayor Jan Jones and Elaine Wynn, who really helped approach the problem.”
Blumen and the influential souls of Las Vegas determined that the work force was dedicated, but lacked guidance.
“I felt we could make a very positive impact on the community if we could turn this population that was forced to rely on public assistance into self-sufficient families that could support themselves” Blumen continued.
In 2005, then-mayor Oscar Goodman was instrumental in helping the group find an acre of land at 1931 Stella Lake Drive near the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Lake Mead Drive. About six years later, Goodman’s wife, Carolyn, jumped in to help secure land for an 8,700 square foot expansion which required 28 more parking spaces.
Yet another friend, former mayor Jan Jones, who was also instrumental in the early stages of the creation of FIT, played a big role in securing a cornerstone grant of $1.5 million from her employer Caesars World, which also became a non-stop supporter of FIT.
FIT’s offices were ready for occupancy in 2008. Prior to that, FIT had been operating in space donated by Dr. Tony Marlon.
“Jan and I had talked at the very beginning of our dream of creating FIT,” Blumen said. We were in a rented and donated office space for 10 years.”
Other benefactors that have helped create FIT have included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, the MGM, and Southwest Gas, among others.
“I think it was the power of our mission that enabled me to find supporters for FIT,” Blumen explained. “I was fortunate enough that I knew some influential people who also cared about the community. We have so many old-time Las Vegans like Siegfried and Roy who are also benefactors and want to help.”
Since its inception, FIT has trained thousands of Southern Nevadans in skills that run the gamut from health care to truck driving to bookkeeping.
“We do an extensive assessment of each individual,” Blumen said. “We help them design the plan that will move them into a job that pays enough to support their family. Our clients are not the people that you see holding cardboard signs on the corner. They’re parents who want to work and need to work and need to support their families, but just can’t. We are not an entitlement program. We just help people achieve their personal dreams.
“The FIT program is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a willingness of the client to put in a lot of hours,” Blumen explained. “To borrow an old phrase, we don’t give people fish to eat to feed themselves; we teach them to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime.”
FIT is a nonprofit agency that provides job training, coaching, and support based on job seekers’ individual needs and the skills employers tell us they are looking for. FIT graduates get jobs, and employers get excellent results.
Situated at 1931 Stella Lake Street near Martin Luther King Drive and Lake Mead Drive in the northwest valley, FIT will celebrate its 20th anniversary Aug. 27, 2017.
Further information can be found by calling 702-367-4348 or by visiting www.lasvegasfit.org.
Contributed to PositivelyLV by local writer Mike Henle.