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The goal is to grow the fund and award more grants

With help from the Employment Resource Fund, Rebecca Hayhurst attends classes at Aspire to improve her reading and writing skills.

Submitted

You’re never too old to learn, and Rebecca Hayhurst of Wooster is a determined, life-long learner. She is 76 and attends classes at Aspire to improve her basic reading and writing skills. This year she received a Certificate of Achievement for the most improved reader. Her improved skills have given her the confidence to write her state and local representatives about the need for better victim’s rights and stricter domestic violence laws.
 
When the weather is good, she walks or rides her bike to classes. When the weather is bad, she uses taxi passes provided by a grant from the Employment Resource Fund. Grant money from the fund directly benefits hard-working adults who are in training or seeking a job or a better job.
 
Chris Smith, a participant in the Employment Program at the Counseling Center of Wayne & Holmes Counties, also has benefited from the fund and its community partners.  
 
“If it wasn’t for the Employment Resource Fund, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to do the welding program at Wayne County Schools Career Center," Smith said. "I had no transportation or money to pay for the testing to get into the program."
 
Smith completed the Fast Track Welding program with perfect attendance and will soon be looking to interview for a welding position once he receives his welding certification.
 
The source of the Employment Resource Fund’s grant money is a remarkable story of how community partners work together to help those who are working to help themselves. It began with the first grant award to Aspire for High School Equivalency Test Scholarships.
 
Those who benefit are expected to “pay it forward” in some way. Aspire students volunteer to help Westminster Presbyterian Church members make soup for their annual winter Hearty Italian Soup Sale. The church then donates the soup sale proceeds to the fund.
 
Every year for the past eight years, the Adult Readiness Education and English as a Second Language students have helped Westminster Presbyterian Church make soup at Central Christian Church, where their classes are held.
 
While doing this, the students have made friends, community connections and learned English language skills such as cooking words like sauté, simmer and mince and vegetable names like zucchini, garlic and green pepper.
 
The vegetables are largely grown by Westminster’s members in their gardens and then chopped and frozen for the annual fall soup-making. Church and community members are key because their donations for soup make this a successful enterprise.
 
Since its beginning the annual soup sale has raised more than $7,000 and helped 92 goal-oriented adults get their Ohio High School Equivalency Diplomas and 42 Counseling Center job seekers with training, job searches and employment needs.
 
According to Bridgette Lempner, director of employment services at the Counseling Center of Wayne & Holmes Counties, “The Employment Resource Fund is an important part of the success of our program. It provides flexible funding that lets us quickly remove barriers for those striving to become employed. We've used the money to pay for taxi passes, car repairs, testing for education, driver licenses, clothing for interviews or uniforms and more. Our job seekers benefit immensely. Of 21 individuals who recently used the fund, 12 got jobs, three took training and one is looking for employment.”
 
Established at the Wayne County Community Foundation in 2000, the Employment Resource Fund was originally named the HOPE Fund (Helping Others Prepare for Employment).
 
In 2017 it was officially renamed to better reflect its mission of helping hard-working adults get jobs or better jobs. At the same time the fund began accepting applications from any Wayne County nonprofit organization that provides services to help adults become employed.
 
Because of donations and the investment wisdom of the Wayne County Community Foundation, the Employment Resource Fund has grown significantly in value over the years.
 
The fund currently supports nine employment-related grants sponsored by eight different community organizations: ASPIRE (formerly ABLE), Adult Education, Wayne County Schools Career Center, Anazao, Community Action of Wayne/Medina Counties, the Counseling Center, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, Wayne College and Wayne County Public Library.
 
In 2017 grant money was used for High School Equivalency Test Scholarships, gas and cab vouchers, uniforms, work clothing, admission testing, car repairs, book loans, resumes, job-search paperwork, and memory sticks.  
 
Any nonprofit organization that offers services to help adults get jobs or better jobs can apply for a grant from the fund. The grant application and a donation link is available at www.EmploymentResourceFund.org.
 
Going forward, the goals are to grow the Employment Resource Fund, award more community grants, find ways to meet any client or student's employment-related need, and continue to focus on sustainability.
 
To keep it sustainable, the steering committee is looking for other community groups that would like to adopt an agency, like Westminster Presbyterian Church has done with Aspire and the Counseling Center.
 
If you know an organization that would like to adopt an initiative, call the Employment Resource Fund steering committee through the Wayne County Community Foundation at 330-262-3877.
 

Published: April 11, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180409935