Don D. Davis, 42, a homeowner in Ward 8, has been unemployed about a year and a half. Hopeful that a job fair hosted by U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton would be different from the others he had attended, he prayed it would be so.

Norton’s job fair which billed more than 100 employers drew the attention of more than 4,000 residents, almost twice as many as had come in 2010. Surprisingly, Davis was one of the lucky ones to get hired on the spot.

Davis was selected by Leone Construction, a minority-owned business that has a contract from the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DESEU) project, to weatherize low income and multi-family units by swapping regular light bulbs with energy efficient ones, wrapping hot water tanks and replacing window air condition units and refrigerators with energy efficient appliances. In addition, small businesses like restaurants will receive energy faucets to reduce the amount of water used.

“I really want to get back on my feet. This job won’t pay the salary that I really need but at least it will get me off unemployment,” said Davis. “The most important thing for me is the introduction into the green job industry. There’s so much talk about it. But what is it and how can I make a good living from it?”

Recently Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced plans to make the District the greenest city in America. Big citywide campaigns begin in September to solicit input from residents and business owners on how to make the District more environmentally safe.

But does all that good talk translate into jobs for the unemployed or more bureaucracy? Several weeks after the job fair and a promise of employment, Davis still waits for a position with the company. His hopes are a little daunted.

“Our company just received the bid in June from DCSEU. We are waiting for enough work and funds to bring on additional staff,” said Henrietta Jones, co-owner of Leone Construction. The company has a small crew of African-American men who have been trained on how to assess the need for upgrading and the installation of energy efficient equipment. The company was assigned clients in Wards 1 and 3.

“One hundred percent of our employees are bonafide DC residents. If we are given the work, we will hire more DC residents,” Jaffa said.

At one of the job sites, Leone Construction new hires work proudly and diligently, climbing ladders to replace 60 light bulbs at a funeral home.

Michael Williams, 55, was a former counselor for the mentally challenged. He has been unemployed for six months.

“At first it seems some people are startled because we are all Black men but once they see how diligent, professional and effective we are, they love us,” said Williams.

Those sentiments are echoed by his coworker, Ricardo Perry, 43, a former truck driver who has been out of work for three months.

“I’ve got 10 children. I can’t afford not to work. What I like are the smiles on the faces once we have completed the project,” said Perry.

Franklin Diggs, 20, just got back from basic training with the National Guard.

“This job is giving me new marketable skills while helping to do positive things in the community,” Diggs said.

The program is performance-based. DCSEU monitors will go out to make sure the installations were performed properly.

“It is my job to make sure the installations have been done properly. We double check before the city monitor comes out,” said job foreman, Anthony Legarde, 54, a certified electrician who was unemployed for four months. “There are many D.C. residents like us looking for work. All they need is a chance.”

Davis hopes that one day soon, he can begin a career in D.C.’s new green industry.

 

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO