For Immediate Release: December 4, 2015
Contact: Jan Thornburg, Sr. Communications Manager 941-954-2613
Sarasota, FL: A graduate of the City’s Street Teams homeless program will be honored by the City Commission as the Employee of the Quarter during the regular City Commission meeting on Monday, December 7, 2015 at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Wes Byington was hired by the City of Sarasota two years ago when he was enrolled in the Street Teams program with The Salvation Army and, as part of the program, helped the Public Works Department with landscape maintenance and picking up litter.
Wes Byington – City of Sarasota Employee of the Quarter
“Wes was highly motivated when he was hired in 2013 and he continues to be,” said Todd Kucharski, Public Works General Manager. “The first couple of times I saw him working with the Street Teams, he impressed me so much that I told our staff when a position opened in the Landscaping Division he should apply. Not only is Wes a hard worker, but he’s very handy. He has saved the City thousands of dollars by making repairs himself rather than hiring a contractor. To know that he was on the street without a home or job just a couple of years ago truly is remarkable. It’s a testament to his motivation and to the success of the Street Teams program.”
Launched in May 2012, the Street Teams program is a joint venture between the City of Sarasota and The Salvation Army. The goal is to help homeless individuals gain job experience and grow accustom to the responsibilities associated with a stable work life, including punctuality and meeting job performance expectations. The Salvation Army enrolls participants at no cost and provides meals, shelter, and daily structure, while the City funds the program and offers work experience in the form of landscaping and litter collection.
Through unexpected circumstances and some missteps, Byington found himself homeless in June 2013 and sleeping at The Salvation Army in Sarasota. A tile installer by trade, Byington asked employees at The Salvation Army if he could perform maintenance work around the building in exchange for a night’s stay. That’s when he learned about the Street Teams program.
“I’ve been so blessed with the opportunity that I’ve gotten with the City over the past two years,” said Byington. “The landscaping work with the Street Teams was a good fit for me. After a couple of months with the Street Teams, the landscape crew at the Public Works Department told me there was a full time position open at the City and encouraged me to apply for it. There is opportunity out there. It comes with hard work and there are good results to it. It’s overwhelming. It really is.”
Byington participated enthusiastically with the Street Teams program for almost four months before he was hired by the City of Sarasota as a Landscape Tech I on November 20, 2013. Upon earning the first of two professional certifications, Byington was promoted to Landscape Tech II. This past spring he was promoted to Reliability Maintenance Planner and now is responsible for the upkeep of facilities at all 49 parks. Later this month, he will graduate from a year-long class for emerging supervisors sponsored by the City.
“Wes Byington epitomizes what the Street Teams program is all about,” said Tom Maxa, The Salvation Army Street Teams Supervisor. “He needed a hand up and he was willing to work hard to get back on his feet. We’re thrilled about his success and I’m very proud of him. The Street Teams program definitely is serving its purpose.”
The current graduation rate for the Street Teams program is 71.5 percent, which exceeds the original goal of 65 percent. Graduation means an individual has secured fulltime employment and has obtained or is in the process of obtaining housing. Approximately 400-500 individuals have participated in the program.
To watch a brief You Tube video about Wes Byington click here.
To schedule an interview with Wes Byington, Employee of the Quarter, contact Jan Thornburg, Senior Communications Manager: 941-954-2613.
To learn more about the Street Teams program contact Tom Maxa at The Salvation Army: 941-954-HOPE ext. 1503.
About the City of Sarasota: Distinguished by Google as a Digital Capital in the U.S., the City of Sarasota is a diverse community located on Florida’s Suncoast with 53,000 year round residents, several internationally recognized cultural arts venues, stunning sunsets along Lido Beach, a 45-hole municipal golf course at the historic Bobby Jones Golf Club, and Major League spring training baseball with the Baltimore Orioles. Learn more about us at www.SarasotaGov.com