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Volunteers to launch job training program

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Members of the Hometown Hires Working Group include, front, from left, Kathy Lawson and Ginny Mohrbutter, and back, from left, Tammy Longmire, Kimberly Stewart, Brenda Cogdell, Sam Codington, Jonee Callahan and Jesse Lewis.

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BY JENNY WHITE
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 2, 2018

For four years, a small group of local volunteers have been meeting periodically to plan, discuss, brainstorm and dream big in an effort to put together the details of a new job training program.

Like puzzle pieces, their hard work has finally come together and built the framework for Hometown Hires, a job training program that Peacemakers will soon adopt under its mission umbrella.

Hometown Hires is a holistic job training and employment program that seeks to move families out of generational poverty through job training, education and a network of community partners. A working group of volunteers began meeting in 2015. Spearheaded by Ginny Mohrbutter of the Tar River Region United Way, Betty Jones and Kathy Lawson, community outreach specialists for the Upper Coastal Plain Learning Council of N.C. State University, the group knew they were on to something that could make a difference in their community.

The core working group included Robert Evans, Jonee Callahan, Kimberly Stewart, Jerry Carter, Nancy Lamm, Tammy Longmire, Sam Codington, Christy Taylor and Brenda Cogdell.

Lawson said the long wait for the program to come to fruition was worth it in the end.

“It takes patience and a good but flexible plan of action to incorporate any kind of program like this,” she said. “There are always times when it seems that it may not happen but with faith and patience, it can.”

Mohrbutter agreed that while the process was long, it was necessary because there are a lot of moving parts that make the program stand out from other employment programs.

“Hometown Hires focuses on a holistic approach for helping people find meaningful, long-term employment,” she said. “There are various pieces that come together to make this happen. One important piece is the applicant recognizing they want and need to enhance their skills in education, soft skills and hard skills in order to be a good employee. Another piece is the mentor who will work with the applicant to help address concerns, possible gaps and provide professional support towards long-range successes.”

Mohrbutter added that other important pieces of the program are the employment partners and nonprofit agencies in the community that provide opportunities for the applicant and ensure that barriers to employment are addressed.

“This approach is so much more than just ‘helping to find a job,’” Mohrubtter said, “It fosters trust and relationship building so that the Hometown Hires applicant knows that they are cared about and can find meaningful employment.”

Jesse Lewis, executive director of Peacemakers, said Hometown Hires is a great fit for the mission and work of Peacemakers.

“A number of the elements of the program are already in place and functioning here, and the elements of Hometown Hires that will be new to us will help further our effectiveness as we try to partner with our neighbors in their efforts to move toward long-term self-sustainability,” he said.

Lewis and Peacemakers look at poverty as a lack of access or a lack of connectedness — as opposed to simply a lack of material resources. Lewis said it’s harder than most people think for people who have lived in chronic poverty for a substantial period of time to break free from it.

“There is always a variety of factors that are conspiring to keep them in that place,” Lewis said. “Issues like a lack of personal contacts, a lack of transportation, lack of education, prior criminal convictions, health and mental health — these are all factors.”

Lewis said even worse, many people reach the place of believing they are not capable of adding any value to an organization.

“And we know this is simply not true,” he added. “Every person has something to offer someone else. Through Hometown Hires, we are addressing all of these issues through one-on-one mentoring, educational courses, job placement and life skill support.”

Peacemakers hopes to have the Hometown Hires program up and running by next spring.

“Fundamentally, our neighbors in poverty have gifts and talents that can move them forward,” Lewis said. “What is needed is hope and connectedness. They need a friend to walk shoulder to shoulder with them who believes in them and is willing to invest time and energies in their journey toward self-sufficiency. And maybe most importantly, to do so as an equal, recognizing that we all have needs of some kind.”

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