Emily Blanche has found the perfect fit. At TumbleTees, a screen-printing company in downtown Phoenix, she blends her interests in art and social service work in a creative and rewarding way.
Blanche, a 34-year-old Phoenix native, is the program manager at TumbleTees, which employs homeless youth and helps prepare them for the future.
Many of the teens and young adults who come to TumbleTees never held jobs before. Some have been in prison and find it difficult to get hired but want to make a change, says Blanche, who started working at TumbleTees in 2010, a year after the business opened.
A graduate of Arizona State University, she holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a minor in communication. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in counseling.
TumbleTees is offered through the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, whose mission is to help abused, abandoned, neglected and troubled youth and young adults.
The vocational training program hires youth who are on case management, which means they are meeting once a week with a social worker to prepare for the future.
“The social workers help them set goals and reach those goals,” says Blanche. They also provide options for affordable housing options, mental and physical health services and resources to get state identification cards that allow them to find employment and vote.
Blanche teaches participants how to screen-print T-shirts and shows them how a business works. They learn customer service, quality control and inventory. They are expected to take full responsibility for their work. She finds the process of teaching a skill very rewarding.
Mark Griffin, 23, appreciates being given the chance to learn a new trade.
“Emily…has helped me manage my money and make shirts that I see almost every day when I’m outside of work,” says Griffin. The 60-hour vocational training program, which currently employs five workers, has made shirts for organizations including the YMCA, Phoenix Theater and St. Mary’s Food Bank. All earnings are reinvested to support and employ homeless and at-risk youth.
“Providing work for people who need it is the favorite part of my job,” Blanche says. “It builds so much self-esteem.”
For more information or to order T-shirts for your own club, team or organization, visit tumbletees.com.