PASADENA — They stop in front of a small, decaying yellow house to scan the bulletin board covered with job announcements.
"Group leader for public works. Supervise and perform duties aiding in the maintenance of streets, alleys and storm drains. $6.50 an hour. Applicants must be at least 18," says one of the announcements tacked to the board, which also displays flyers requesting a library assistant, an electrician and a boxing coach.
"Help Our Youth, JUST SAY NO! to Drugs," says another notice.
Standing next to the bulletin board is Philip Perry, who in May persuaded a local lumber company to donate wood for the 8-by-3-foot display. He put it up in his front yard in the heart of the low-income area in northwest Pasadena, which is populated largely by blacks and Latinos, to publicize employment opportunities, mostly from the city.
"This sign needs to be in everybody's front yard in the United States," said Perry. A youthful 65, he lives with his son and relies on a Social Security check to meet his expenses.
"We're trying to turn these people around so that instead of being born on welfare, raised on welfare and going on welfare, they become responsible taxpayers," said Perry, who was born and reared in Pasadena and dropped out of school in the 10th grade.
The gregarious Perry does not hesitate to engage any of the 5 to 10 people who stop by each morning in lengthy conversations about the problems of northwest Pasadena, including high unemployment among black youths and an increase in the use and sale of drugs.
He talks about the importance of finding work and cites the case of Alfred Marsh, 37, a Pasadena man who had been unemployed for a year before he ran across an announcement for a city job posted on Perry's bulletin board.
"Every time I went to get a job they told me it was filled and there was nothing left," Marsh said.
Before he applied for the posted city position, Marsh said, he and Perry discussed ways to improve his chances of being hired, including dressing nicely for interviews.
Marsh was successful and now is an employee in the maintenance division of the city's Public Works Department.
Perry said Marsh's case is proof that "the city of Pasadena's Personnel Department is right here in the community and all it's costing them is a few stamps a month to mail the announcements to me."
Kathy Hutchins, recruitment coordinator for Pasadena's Personnel Department, said the city sends job announcements only to public agencies, not individuals. But Perry receives and displays announcements addressed to the Negro General Welfare Fund, a group he founded in the 1960s when he lived in Compton. That name is posted on top of Perry's bulletin board.
A Real Help
"We have always emphasized assisting the northwest area, and any assistance from local persons like him really helps," Hutchins said.
Perry believes that if young people have a positive outlet for their energy, such as a job, they will not turn to drugs.
"Cocaine is the devil's venom and it's eating the minds of the kids," he said.
"This (situation) is so critical that you have 9- and 10-year-old kids making drug deals," he said, adding that crime is a way of life in the northwest area.
"You need to find them employment. They don't sell the dope for the dope, they sell it for money."
He said that as a child in the 1930s, he sold newspapers on Colorado Boulevard, and would talk with people when he was not screaming out the day's headlines. "That's the best salesmanship training you can get as a boy because you learn about people," Perry said.
"Sales boys were getting on-the-job training in selling. The newspapers now have a machine there," he said.
During World War II, Perry joined the Army and worked in Alaska, unloading ships. He was injured on the job and discharged, then returned to Southern California, where he worked as a civilian apprentice coppersmith for the Navy in Long Beach.
After the war, he worked on the assembly lines at various defense plants in Southern California.
Life of Service
Over the years, he said, his interest in helping others grew, and by 1955 he decided to devote full time to religious and charitable service.
He said he founded the Negro General Welfare Fund to help needy young people find jobs. He also started a program under which low-income black youths made jewelry and were paid from the profits.
Today, when he is not talking to passers-by about jobs, he helps various social service agencies distribute food and clothing to the needy. He also keeps an eye on the young people in his neighborhood.
"A lot of kids like him because he's nice to us," said 13-year-old Stephanie Donald, who lives across the street from Perry. "He talks about jobs and not taking drugs . . . And when we do stuff wrong, he tells us not to do it."
"The kids need some special attention," said George Marcus, who also lives nearby. "They need someone to talk to them about not taking drugs, and he does that."