As in the book, the first participant in the Dream Manager program was a long-time janitor whose dream was to buy a house. Through research, community connections, proper planning and a little financial aid, JANCOA was able to make this dream a reality. This success was able to quash any critics and solidified the importance of the program. Many employees wanted to sign up to share — and reach — their dreams.

Nearly 15 years later, that’s still the case. Since its creation, every staff member has had the opportunity to work with the Dream Manager.
“The Dream Manager program is very much a part of our HR,” says Mary. “Everyone that gets hired knows about our program.”

New hires are given a Dream Manager form and asked what they hope to accomplish in the next three years.

Once dreams are identified, the next steps are building a bond and establishing trust with workers. To break the ice, Dream Manager Candella would bring workers cans of Coke to start a conversation or show up to an account with pizza during a break.

“It’s amazing the conversations you can have over pizza,” quips Mary.

Candella used to spend 40 hours a week interacting with employees, trying to overcome language and culture barriers and forge a relationship.

“I had to engage people five or six times before I established trust,” says Candella. “Once that was accomplished, it began to open doors to more personalized issues.”

Now Candella has transitioned into HR, as well as being Dream Manager. This allows him to meet and interact with new hires as early as their first day. Whatever the dream, Candella is there to answer questions, point employees in the right direction or provide feedback. JANCOA has stopped offering financial assistance with dreams and Candella won’t do the work for the person, but sometimes all people need is a helping hand and encouragement.

“The ones who really get [the program] walk out their own dreams,” he says. “For example, when they’re closing on a house, they have incredible feelings of success and independence,” knowing they achieved it on their own.

Over the years the Dream Manager program has helped employees earn a GED or college degree, start a small business, adopt a child, stop smoking, learn to speak and read English, or even pursued their “dream” career once leaving JANCOA.

“Everyone wants to feel good about themselves,” says Candella. “And when we do something for employees and treat them as people with talent, amazing things can happen.”

Sometimes the simplest of dreams can be the most impressive. One of Mary’s favorite dream stories is a worker from Nigeria who earned his driver’s license.

“He was so proud of it,” she says. “With a driver’s license he now had the freedom to get outside of the bus lines, which meant he could get a job making more money. His world opened up because he had that license.”

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