Elijah Thomas: Rising Above Adversity

by Stephanie Kalele, Donor Relations Manager

As the positivity rate resurges in New York City, at Urban Upbound we are hard at work supporting families still reeling from the impact of the first COVID-19 wave. Elijah Thomas, a resident of Johnson Houses in East Harlem, lost his older brother to the pandemic, which also took away his job. Dealing with these tragedies at the same time took a toll on Elijah, both mentally and financially. A father of two, Elijah knew that he had to stay strong and be creative when searching for new opportunities to support his family.

Elijah hoped that his 17 years of experience in security work would somehow help him find a job in a different field. The former amateur boxing champion was looking to work with his hands. Unfortunately, his initial job search efforts did not pan out. Then he saw an Urban Upbound flyer posted in his building advertising our virtual OSHA 30 training. At that moment he decided that this was a new skill he needed to learn.

Completing the 30-hour course, offered over a two-weekend period, meant Elijah had to sacrifice important moments, such as missing his daughter’s birthday. Yet, he was happy to participate and even happier with the results. “The [OSHA 30] training really taught me a lot. I even learned things that I wouldn’t have even thought about related to worker’s safety,” he told us. Elijah also shared that the course made him feel more comfortable to accept a job with a landscaping company that would require him to be frequently suspended 15–30 ft in the air.

Elijah is grateful that he can again provide for his family and he is now working with an Urban Upbound financial counselor to shape up his finances. The father of two is really thankful for the donors who made it possible for him to get the OSHA 30 training and the various other free services he is receiving at Urban Upbound.

“I wouldn’t have the means to take part in this training if it wasn’t because of the generosity of the donors,” he shared.

Our continue to serve the families who need an extra hand during this difficult period. From food and direct financial assistance to employment and financial counseling, makes it possible for us to keep providing these key services. If you’d like to learn more about our impact and work, please follow us on social media (, , and ) or .

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Urban Upbound NYC

A collection of stories around NYC’s public housing communities curated by Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty.