Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
August 28, 2023
Rob Andrews | CommunityWorks
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Rob Lee Andrews and I am the President and CEO of CommunityWorks. We help people who experience barriers to employment go back to work through job preparation and job placement.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I joined CommunityWorks seven years ago. I started doing this type of work back in 2008 after working in politics. I started a nonprofit in Colorado Springs which I ran until about 2013 when we moved to Aurora, and I took a job working for the state of Colorado. I was approached by the founder of CommunityWorks who wanted me to apply for the executive director position. At first, I didn’t want to leave my job, but my boss insisted that these opportunities don’t come along very often. I sent my resume and didn’t know how far it would go or if I would hear anything, but after two interviews I got the job.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I stand for the things that I was taught as a child, like moral ethics, values, and integrity. This work is important because we have five target populations that represent my life. We grew up poor and relied on food stamps. I have a sister who was on TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – for 60 months. My dad was a veteran. My brother was formerly incarcerated. My parents struggled to find jobs after they turned 50. Those are the things I stand for now. At CommunityWorks, we support all five of those target populations within the organization.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
We have nine sites throughout Colorado touching approximately 4,500 people this year. Maybe they’re going to get a haircut from us or receive construction training, or maybe they’re going to a studio or one of our classes. They’re going to get help from us, whether that’s housing, gas, or something in that area. We’re making strides throughout the Colorado community, which is really a blessing for us and something that’s close to my heart.
I don’t really think about the impact I’m personally making. My job is to empower people to make an impact. I go to work to try and empower people to do the best job they can, with the passion that they want to do it. Just doing what I’m supposed to be doing fulfills me.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
My faith inspires me to do the work I do every day. It’s doing God’s work. I played college football and my roommate who was also on the team inspired me to understand what passion looks like. He was willing to die for every play on the field and eventually won two Super Bowls. I was not willing to die for football but I was willing to die for my community. That’s what brought me back to Colorado, to serve the people who are the most vulnerable.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We want to be in at least 10 states to help a ton of people go back to work. We feel like we have a very solid model and feel we can do it in a very new way. We went from helping 250,000 people when I started to six million a year. I think we can broaden our reach and really help folks get back to work. I feel the reason that we’ve been successful is we help them get back to work through culture. People can air their grievances and have therapeutic experiences through simple things like haircuts or in our recording studio. We host cultural events for people to feel closer and bridge the gap to go back to work because we’re a trusted source. We like to say we remove barriers to employment, but we really remove barriers and help the folks we work with find a purpose.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
I think we have very common challenges, both internally and externally. As organizations grow, they have to adapt and conform to standards that will help them grow further. Our business model is going to change, but the quality of the product will be the same. Internally folks might have an issue with that because it’s different. Externally, we’re trying to segment ourselves differently than other organizations. We don’t want to be pigeonholed for a specific population segment, because we serve many types of people.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
This is an organization that’s created around community and through human-centered design. It’s not centered around our staff or our products. Our organization is centered around the community voice. We want folks to know that all of our programs are created using quantitative and qualitative data based on what the community needs are. We don’t believe we’re the experts, but we believe we can respond to community needs as they grow.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
My favorite is, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Luke 12:48. That guides me every day. I’m given a lot so I’ve got to give a lot back.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Visit us at communityworks.org. Call or donate to support an organization that is a reflection of the community.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We help purpose-driven organizations launch or up-level their PR program by giving them the strategy, resources, and support they need to increase awareness and expand their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.