The Orleans Homebuilders family has been involved in the growth and development of the Orleans Technical Institute -- a program of JEVS Human Services, formerly the Jewish Employment and Vocational Services -- since its founding in 1979. Many of the more than 1,100 students who attend the school to train for first-time or second careers in the building-trades, court-reporting and human-services fields can relate to the personal story of Alfred P. Orleans, the firm's founder and school namesake.
Born in a Russian village in the 1890s, Alfred Orleans' parents thought their son had the wherewithal to become a doctor. But because Orleans was Jewish, he was prohibited from attending medical school in his homeland. So his family financed a trip to America -- to Philadelphia -- where he would study, train and one day, return to his village with medical know-how.
Yet the best-laid plans can go awry. Orleans received numerous letters from home discussing the pogroms taking place throughout Russia. He determined that returning home would be too dangerous; thus, he sought a new career path.
Orleans earned a living by selling insurance and real estate on street corners. His success in these trades eventually gave him the confidence to set himself up as a homebuilder. Orleans remained active in the family business he founded until he was 92. He died in 1981 at the age of 93.
Like his grandfather, Jeffrey P. Orleans -- chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Orleans Homebuilders, Inc. since September 1986 -- takes a hands-on interest in the homebuilding industry. He also is committed to carrying on a family tradition of tzedakah, and firmly believes in giving a hand up to those who seek trade training as a way to become self-sufficient. Orleans has been a board member of JEVS Human Services for many years and, according to Jay Spector, president and CEO of JEVS Human Services, was the lead benefactor of the new facility built to house Orleans Technical Institute on 2770 Red Lion Road. The 88,000 square-foot school hosted its grand-opening ceremony on Oct. 19.
This particular site was selected because of its accessibility to public transportation and its proximity to major highways.
"This Northeast Philadelphia campus offers access to students from Eastern Montgomery and Bucks counties, as well as those students coming in from southern New Jersey," he said.
According to Spector, the $21 million building project was initiated "when we realized that our current facility was simply too small and too old to house the quality career training for which we are known."
Spector also remains optimistic that the state-of-the-art facility -- with its expanded classrooms and training labs -- will significantly cut down on waiting lists for the more popular programs, like the court-reporting class, which boasts a 100 percent job-placement rate.
Additional space also allows for the launch of a brand-new career track -- Human Services -- geared to give people the skills-training and preparation for entry-level positions working with at-risk youth, the homeless, the disabled, victims of domestic violence, and other people at risk or in crisis. In this track, students can earn college credits transferable to Philadelphia University and Community College of Philadelphia.
Spector also spoke of a unique design element in the form of the trades wing in the facility's Butler Building, which is structured "like an airplane hangar" to afford flexible space arrangements for hands-on training in the areas of carpentry, plumbing and heating, building maintenance and electricity.
Kristen A. Rantanen, JEVS Human Services' vice president of communications and public affairs, is excited that all of the ancillary support services -- such as tutoring, advising, skill-building, résumé and job-interview preparation, and, of course, job-placement assistance -- that JEVS is known for can now be offered to Orleans Tech students under one roof.
As Rantanen explained: "We work with each and every student from the day they enroll in our school to give them the best opportunity for career and personal success."
For questions about the new facility or to learn more about the Orleans Technical Institute, call 215-728-4700 or log on to: www. orleanstech.org.