HAVERHILL — The rhythmic hum of sewing machines could signal the sounds of a brighter future for some residents in the Mount Washington neighborhood and other parts of the city.
Residents seeking training as sewing machine operators can now attend free classes offered through a partnership between Urban Kindness — the Mount Washington neighborhood civic improvement group led by Keith Boucher, and Community Action Inc. in Haverhill.
Their new MakeIT Haverhill, a nonprofit training center and maker space located at the corner of Bartlett and Washington streets, is outfitted with four industrial Juki brand sewing machines donated by Southwick, which manufactures Brooks Brothers suits in a factory in the Broadway Business Park.
For Fior Daliza, who along with her husband and their children arrived in Haverhill earlier this year from the Dominican Republic, not speaking English posed a barrier to finding a good job.
Plus, she didn’t have much in the way of work skills, other than some informal training in her native land in the use of a sewing machine.
Then she heard about the MakeIT center, where she is on the road to landing a job at Southwick.
“I’ve been here four times so far and I’m hoping to learn enough to get a job,” she said through an interpreter — her son, Dauri DeLacruz, 13, who is a student at the Consentino School.
A ribbon cutting for the new center was held June 14 and now participants’ are involved in learning new skills or enhancing skills they already possess.
Jan Williams of North Andover, Diane Boucher (Keith’s wife) and Helen Sheehan of Haverhill are the center’s sewing machine instructors.
Keith Boucher said he hopes to place his first trainee at Southwick in a month or so. He said the company has been very receptive to hiring people of different cultures.
“I’ve met with Southwick’s director of manufacturing, Curt Clark, who also provides us with technical support, sewing machine maintenance and leftover fabric to practice on,” Keith Boucher said. “He also provided a training program so that the people we’re working with can get jobs at Southwick, where they have a demand for sewing machine operators.”
For those interested in technology, the center has 14 laptop computers donated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The computers will soon be loaded with Microsoft Office applications. Training is expected to begin this fall.
Cutting-edge training in computer-aided design is another offering. Whatever is designed can be produced with the use of 3D printing technology. Chris White of CreatorPult, a maker space on Essex Street, donated three 3D printers to the center.
“CAD skills could be a career path to places such as New Balance, which is opening a factory in Methuen and will include a design center for creating 3D printed footwear,” Keith Boucher said. “Southwick is also looking at 3D printing for their operation.”
The center also has one 65-inch and one 75-inch TV for presentations, as well as a 10-person conference room.
Angela Meade of Haverhill saw a poster at the public library for MakeIT Haverhill, where she has been taking lessons on a sewing machine in hopes of learning enough to alter her own clothing.
“I’d also like to be able to make my own clothing and maybe translate it into something profitable,” she said.
Keith Boucher said he would like to launch a collaborative sewing group that would, at first, make fabric grocery bags in place of the plastic bags now banned in Haverhill supermarkets.
He’s also planning to offer English language classes.
Keith Boucher purchased the building, which he said decades ago housed Benedetti’s Shoe Store. He is leasing it to MakeIT Haverhill, a project of Community Action.
Both Community Action and Urban Kindness are part of the Mount Washington Alliance, which a few years ago received a $500,000 grant from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to improve the socio-economic standing of residents in that section of the city.
“We’re not a job placement service, but we are helping people get to where they want to go,” Boucher said.