The Interview with Joan Abbot, Interim Executive Director
Part of the Family
TPC and BEST have been “like family,” with TPC volunteers getting actively involved over the years in helping clients get quality union jobs in the hospitality industry. BEST’s tagline is “Good Jobs Better Lives.” TPC volunteers have provided mock interview practice, helped with résumés, and pre-pandemic dined at BEST’s Mock Banquets, as trainees demonstrated their new serving skills.
Welcome to the Omni Seaport
BEST was recently on the move to its new training space at the Omni Seaport Hotel. Anyone that visited the now closed Roxbury office could not help but notice the beautiful (and plentiful) artwork that has been donated to BEST over the years. It has all been packed up carefully and moved to the new location where, thanks to the sensibilities and experience of professional decorator and TPC member Cheryl Katz, the artwork now adorns the walls of BEST’s new offices. (The next Link will feature an interview with both Joan and Cheryl about this latest joint effort between BEST and TPC.)
BEST continues to be supported by the City of Boston and other funders to move people into union jobs that pay $26.27/hour plus benefits. Once placed at a hotel, many Local 26 workers continue to take classes at BEST as part of their Local 26 education plan.
The Hospitality Industry Is Coming Back!
Hotels are opening up again and hiring. Hooray! Bleisure (a blend of business and leisure travel) is increasing even though conventions are not yet fully at pre-pandemic levels. Hotels have come to see BEST as a trusted partner that recruits, trains, and provides quality talent for hiring.
The Challenge of Getting that First Job
BEST has always been a popular “next step” for low wage workers seeking to get a better paid job. These days, the job seeker clients BEST is seeing are facing much bigger barriers to success: long-term unemployment, childcare issues, unreliable internet access, housing instability, financial insecurity, mental health issues, and more. (Lori Sylvia, Apprenticeship Director, explained this well during a TPC Dialogue Panel on February 10, 2022.) Due to a severe cut in revenue caused by the pandemic, BEST itself had to lay off several staff in 2021, though the expectation is to rebuild in 2022 as hotels get busier and new grant funding, hopefully, comes in.
Thank You, Joan Abbot
Interim Executive Director Joan Abbot has kept BEST going through the pandemic downturn with grace, style, and commitment. Before coming to BEST, she taught ESL and worked in refugee resettlement. At BEST she was inspired by and learned from its founder, Marie Downey, to be a voice for hospitality workers of all backgrounds. As BEST recruits a permanent Executive Director, Joan (who chose not to take this role) will continue helping BEST meet its mission, to provide individuals the education, skills, and training to excel in the hospitality industry and in their personal lives.
Joan says her best reward is when she strolls through the lobby of the Fairmont Copley, or the kitchen area at the Omni Seaport, or any other Local 26 hotel and runs into former students. In these encounters she learns that one has bought a new house, another has a child in medical school, another became a US citizen and was able to visit her home country. She hears how one Local 26 member has been at that hotel for 30 years, how another one has a daughter at Harvard, and another one has a son working on Wall Street. She sees how these quality jobs open doors and move people into the middle class. She sees workers achieving their dreams, which often mean launching the next generation of leaders. Joan is quick to list the contributions (monetary and otherwise) of TPC volunteers. “TPC is a true partner to BEST,” she says. “In every sense of the word.”