When Denver resident Amy Gordons youngest child started school in the summer of 2011, she found herself with time on her hands, which led to her decision to become involved in volunteer work.
I had been active in the typical stay-at-home mom kinds of activities, but I was looking for a more substantial involvement, said Gordon, 42.
One year later, after a concerted effort, her brainchild has come to fruition. She is the executive director, lead instructor and mentor coordinator for Lincoln Ready to Work, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to assist women in the area who are seeking employment.
I didnt really intend to start this program, but had gone to East Lincoln Christian Ministry in Denver to see if there was a community program designed to empower women to realize their potential.
Learning that no such program existed, the seed of an idea was planted and I began the process of trying to fulfill that need in our community.
Gordon joined forces with Ruth Baker, East Lincoln Christian Ministry crisis coordinator, and they began seeking community support and looking at similar programs in other communities. The steps entailed recruiting an advisory board of directors, incorporating as a nonprofit organization, obtaining insurance and finding a place to meet.
The first two-week class, with four students, met in September at Mentaur Learning Center, N.C. 16 in Denver. Funding for the start-up class was provided by donations from the board of directors, St. Peter-by-the-Lake Episcopal Church and Unity Presbyterian Church, as well as a grant from Goodfellows.
The organization has received additional support from Helping Hands, Denver United Methodist Church, the Denver Fire Department, and East Lincoln Christian Ministry, among others.
The workshop-style class includes help with resume writing, interviewing, goal attainment and computer skills, including Microsoft Office. Each graduate is then paired with a mentor, who will provide ongoing coaching and support for a year as the candidate seeks entry-level employment.
The current 11-member board of directors includes a stay-at-home mom, an accountant, a physician, a retired superintendent of schools, a retired business executive, a nurse and a librarian.
Recent course graduate Lorrayne Walters, 42, a single mother of two children, lives in Iron Station. She has had previous work experience as a waitress and an office manager, but was laid off a year ago and has been looking for work since without success.
When I was younger, finding a job was not too difficult, Walters said. There was a personal element involved between the prospective employee and employer, but now the process is very impersonal. Everything is handled by a computer database, so there is little opportunity to sell yourself unless the database picks you out for a chance at an interview.
Having gone through the Ready to Work program, I have renewed confidence in myself. I know how to be prepared and what to say to make a good impression. I feel more comfortable and confident, she said.
Another recent graduate, Susan Anderson, lives in Maiden, near Pumpkin Center. She had been employed as a teaching assistant at the Grace Daycare Center in Stanley, but although she has some community college credits, her job was terminated because she did not have state certification in early childhood education.
I discovered that I really have a passion for kids, said Anderson, 54. Ive never known pure joy going to work until I began working with kids. I had been looking for work in retail or preferably child care, dropping off my resume, but I got no bites, not even a nibble.
She heard about Lincoln Ready to Work from a friend who volunteers at East Lincoln Christian Ministry, and decided to try the program. She is working with her mentor, with a renewed passion and a commitment to find a job.
Commenting on the changing nature of the workplace today, board member Charles Bohlen said, We may have as many as six or seven different careers in our working life. The class we offer is designed to help these women engage in that new world of work.
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