Six ladies filled with renewed hope and strength raised their candles high at the third graduating class of Christian Women’s Job Corps’ Jobs for Life program.
“They come to us hopeless and helpless. We try to meet them where they are and start instilling hope and encouragement while building job skills,” said Pat Cawood, CWJC mentor.
All contact with the program begins with an initial interview. Applicants meet at an allotted time with Sue Bennett, site director. She said the subsequent conversation reveals the lady’s needs, story, and personality.
Information from the interview and hours of prayer determine the applicant’s mentor. Mentors attend each week’s four-hour session. They provide almost daily support. Participants turn to their mentors for a listening ear, guidance, or even a much needed laugh. Alice Terry, Pat Cawood, Christy Williams, June Bow-Stutz, Marilyn Kearny, Shelley Coleman and Virginia LaRue served as the third class’ mentors.
Bennett described the program as more than a job resource.
“It is a holistic approach to helping each woman realize her self-worth. We are a strength- based ministry,” Bennett said.
Added Cawood, “God sees us as we really are without the negative facades. We start the very first class in Genesis and discuss how he made us in his image. Then the cliché, ‘God don’t make no junk.’”
Each week consisted of a four- hour session. The first 30 minutes were spent in devotions. Several graduating students described the devotions as their favorite part of each week.
Community resources lasted for an hour to an hour and a half, following devotions. Members of the community spoke with the ladies on a variety of subjects. These discussion topics ranged from proper work attire to what employers are looking for in a hire.
Students plunged into an intensive biblical-based curriculum study the last two hours of each session. Lessons revolved around resume writing, developing a vocational plan and how to attain goals. Homework was assigned at the end of each night.
Mentors, students, and instructors grew closer with each passing week.
“We reach them by just being real, loving on them, and trying to hear where they are right now,” Cawood said.
Added Bennett, “We are being transparent with them.”
Tears were in an abundance at the graduating ceremony. Each student gave their heartfelt thanks to the ladies who stood by them for four months.
Margaret Martinez posed a question to the assembled guests.
“How does one say thank you? The journey has been overwhelming,” Martinez said.
“My perspective before this was so, so wrong.”
Mabel Dacus, Dorothy Foster, Lyvonne Lee, Martinez, Tabitha Turlock and Cindy Williams waited their turn to address the crowd.
Carolyn Pettit graduated, but was unable to make the ceremony due to work schedule conflicts.
Turlock said the CWJC ladies saved her from the place she initially found herself.
“I am out of the hole I was stuck in. They provided a rope to for me to climb out. I feel like I have a path to go down. I have goals,” Turlock said.
“It became more than I thought it was going to be.”
Williams ended the graduate speeches with words for herself and others.
“All of us ladies have come a long way. I have gotten to know the ladies and love them all so. Every one of us have worked hard to get to this point by overcoming a number of obstacles,” Williams said.
She encouraged continued communication.
“Our paths will still be difficult, so we need to stick together,” Williams said.
Eva Pierce delivered a twist on the guest speaker speech by quoting a graduate of Knoxville’s program.
“Listen to the advice of the godly people you respect,” Pierce said. “She said, ‘There is a reason you respect them, isn’t there?’ Now all the old folks are looking at this new person who has hopes and goals. They do not recognize you anymore.”
According to the Knoxville graduate, God placed godly people around each lady to recognize her new self and encourage growth.
“Secondly, be grateful and show it,” Pierce said. “Thirdly, be honest.”
Graduates were advised to leave their past behind them.
“Quit dwelling on it. Quit living in it,” Pierce said.
Information on the program can be found be contacting Sue Bennett through the Bradley Baptist Association at North Cleveland Baptist Church on North Ocoee Street.
Bennett said donations of work clothes, hangers, house hold items and money are gratefully accepted.