Program Manager, Human Resources Unlimited, LighthouseIt’s called the HRU Café. That’s the name given to a new venture, a unique start-up business located at the Springfield Jewish Community Center (JCC) that brings together most of Jeff Trant’s passions under one roof, or operation.
These include social work, which he’s been doing virtually all his life — currently as director of a facility called Lighthouse, a community rehabilitation and employment organization managed by Human Resources Unlimited (the HRU part of that name) — and also business, or, in this case, the all-important business side of nonprofit management.
And then, there’s the coffee. “That’s been a serious vice since grad school,” he said.
The café, open since Valentine’s Day, employs disabled and disadvantaged adults and thus brings awareness to the large and diverse JCC community about the abilities of all people, disabled or otherwise, said Trant. Doing this, and hopefully breaking even financially, he said, helps explain what he means when he says he’s “an untraditional social worker.”
“When you have the credentials I have, you’re automatically sort of put in this box — when people hear the words ‘social worker,’ they assume you do one of two things, that you do child-protective services, meaning you take kids who are abused or neglected away from families, or you do psychotherapy with people. I do neither. What I do is very important work — it’s working with folks who don’t have a voice and helping them get one. That cuts across all facets of society, and it’s all about building stronger communities.”
Through Trant’s leadership, Springfield-based Lighthouse, which he took over in 2008, has undergone a successful restructuring, and now serves more than 500 men and women recovering from the effects of mental illness.
Trant’s only passion not represented by the café is golf, which he calls the “great equalizer,” and a way to “decompress” from his hard and often trying work at HRU, trying to give his clients a voice.
Trant credits his wife, Rachel, with helping him find a balance between work, life, golf, and coffee.
— George O’Brien