Giving the gift of employment

FORT WORTH -- After being a stay-at-home mom for her two boys, Lenitha Martin of Burleson re-entered the workforce about a year and a half ago.

She took various temp jobs, including a recent stint at the Salvation Army. She also volunteered at Baylor All Saints Medical Center.

But it looked as if Martin, 27, wouldn't be working as the holidays approached -- not an ideal situation with presents needing to be bought.

Her luck changed when she was tapped by Express Employment Professionals, an employment agency, to be one of 160 Tarrant County residents to get a temp job before the holidays.

"It means a lot to do this right before Christmas," Martin said. "It helps me buy gifts for my children and help out my husband."

Rather than simply donate money to a charity for the holidays, Express officials decided to get as many unemployed workers paychecks as possible.

"We wanted to give the gift of employment," said Brook Lewis, corporate developer for Express. "It's a way of paying it forward. The hope is some will get hired full time or at the very least get recommendations that will help give them a head start on landing a full-time job next year."

The program originated at the Tyler office of the company last year.

As franchises in Dallas-Fort Worth learned of the idea, they signed on and found temp jobs for about 360 people across the Metroplex.

"It feels good," said Julie Turner, co-owner of two Express franchises in Fort Worth. "This is what we do year-round but everyone around the office has been excited about it. It reminds us how important our job is to find people employment."

The biggest challenge was finding companies willing to hire extra workers on short notice and for such a limited time.

Martin was hired by CMIT Solutions of Fort Worth, which provides information technology for businesses.

Shirley Peterson, CMIT's owner, said she was in a position to bring on someone to help organize invoices and other paperwork at year's end.

"This was the perfect thing for us to hire someone during the holidays to help us get started on our new project," Peterson said. "It's been wonderful having these extra hands. She's jumped right in."

Martin eventually wants to work in the healthcare profession, which is why she volunteered at Baylor All Saints. She is taking online courses to get a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration.

"I like the medical field," Martin said. "I like helping people but it will probably take me another year or year and a half to get my degree."

After getting her paycheck for the holiday work, Martin said, she plans to buy a new gaming system for her sons, Marcus, 7, and Markell, 5.

"We'll be going to GameStop and getting a Wii U," she said. "This job helps me keep up with all the things they want for Christmas, but we may tell them it came from Santa."

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna