Mattress Mack tackles joblessness with workforce program, trade school

mattress mack

by Claire Goodman

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is a prominent member of the community, known for his community outreach, philanthropy and of course, his desire to save you money. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to batter the local economy and increase joblessness, McIngvale has launched multiple new endeavors to get Fort Bend county residents back to work.

What prompted you to form the employment resource center?

So many people are out of work because of COVID-19, so we decided to see if we could get some HR professionals that were not working to come out and help people find new jobs, or at least give them an avenue to improve their resumes and think differently – out of the box – about where their skill set could be better applied.

The resource center focuses on more than just getting back to work or gaining new work-related skills. It also addresses mental illness and nutritional insecurity. Can you tell us why you decided to tie in those critical issues?

Nutritional insecurity is rampant these days with these kids that are out of school and not getting free breakfast and free lunch. So many parents have lost their jobs, as well.

Mental illness has always been a cause near and dear to me. We at Gallery Furniture don’t counsel people with mental illness directly, but we refer them to mental illness professionals in Fort Bend County who can help them.

I think that mental illness is ramping up even more. During the lockdown there was a crisis of economic proportions, and people are frightened to death of this disease, as well they should be. So there’s lots of mental illness issues that people are dealing with, and we connect them to professionals who can help them.

The workforce is a collaboration between government officials and charitable organizations. How do you work with these entities to provide these services to the people?

Fort Bend has been great working with us. They’ve bent over backwards to help us. They’re partnering with us and Houston Food Bank. They did many food giveaways out there at the Gallery Furniture Grand Parkway, and of course Fort Bend County is still doing COVID-19 testing at our back parking lot.

Fort Bend has been a great partner in the community, helping us get resources and help people get tested for COVID, get free food and find jobs. So kudos to all the great people in Fort Bend County.

You do all these things for the community while still running a business. How do you balance your work and community outreach?

It’s all the same to me. ‘We all have a responsibility for the well-being of the community’ is a quote that I live by from one of my mentors, W. Edwards Deming, and we do have responsibilities for the well-being of the community.

Not only are we here to practice capitalism and make money, we’re also here to give back, and this is part of our small way of giving back.

Do you have any new efforts in the works?

We’re opening our new high school out in Gallery Furniture North Freeway in September. It’s a high school for people 16 to 26 who never finished high school. We’re going to help them get a GED or high school degree, and we’re also opening a trade school.

Both the schools will be free, and the trade school will teach plumbing, electrical, construction skills, horticulture, sales skills, auto mechanics, and that sort of thing in partnership with Houston Community College

We’re very excited about opening our trade school and our high school that will help people scale up the average income of the area. Within a five-mile area of Gallery Furniture North Freeway, the average salary is about $26,000. So we want to help people learn a trade where they can not only experience the joy of work, they can also raise their income for themselves and their families.

Related: ‘Mattress Mack’ opens new free, public trade school

People have become famous for a lot of different reasons- actors and athletes for example. You’ve become famous for your philanthropy. How does that feel? What’s it like knowing that you’ve become a local celebrity for helping the community?

One of my daughters’ and my favorite things to say is that you teach a better sermon with your life than you do with your lips. And I’ve got a long way to go.

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