The CWJC began with Sue Bennett, a Sunday school teacher, who herself had been in an abusive marriage. When she saw the Christian Women’s Job Corps logo, Bennett said it “exploded” in her heart. She went for training in the ministry and got a prayer team together — Lucille Lofty, Marilyn Elkins and Edna Johnson — and began an organization. The advisory council was formed in 2007-08.
Lofty said there were so many single mothers, it called for a job-readiness program for women — a “help themselves” concept. (Although there is a men’s Job Corps nationally, as yet there is not one in Cleveland.)
Beth Philllips is a January graduate and is getting ready to graduate from Bryan College. Her husband died three years ago and she was left with two children. “I absolutely could not function,” she said.
Although “I had no desire to do it,” Phillips started the program as a participant and now says she is “glad I did it.” She said she learned so much as to how to go about getting a better life and getting around “the roadblocks” in her life.
Her mentor Lisa Stewart has been with her a year and assisted her to finish her education. For her thesis, she did research on the Christian Women’s Corps and, “the professor liked it.”
And her mock job interview, complete with resumé, actually landed her a job within 1 1/2 weeks.
Edna Polier, the Jobs for Life instructor, said the success rate is amazing. The study, “Jobs for Life — Building Lives One Job at a Time,” she explained, is to equip a person for a job. It’s a 16-week journey around roadblocks. “There is homework, too,” she confided. The resumé — the hard work — is done in the 15th week.
Several times, Phillips said, she almost dropped out, but mentors are there, along with staff, to work with struggling participants. The schedule includes 30 minutes for Bible study and a two-hour session for job training.
There are four areas in Bible study — “the purpose is to round out the person instead of focusing on a job alone,” Phillips added. Ladies from age 22 to 72 have participated in the program.
Elkins told how important it is to the participants to find jobs. “Work is a blessing,” she said — “not a four-letter word.” The course teaches how to be a valuable employee.
Polier said any employer should look at graduates from this class. The participants learn to look at the employer as a customer and they learn to communicate, which is difficult for some.
In the last group, when it came time to share their stories, two ran out of class and she went behind them, talking them into coming back. Surprisingly, each one spoke at graduation.
Support and opportunity have come from local businesses and groups such as Cleveland State Community College, Brenda Hughes with BICC, Life Care, Carol Hicks, Arch Chemical, Evie West, Volkswagen, Surgical Center and Kaye Smith, UT Extension agent. Resources include image consultant, auto maintenance, nutrition, legal advice and money management.
The council members said they were impressed executives from companies would come and talk to the small groups. Participants learn who is hiring.
Mentors, too, are involved — “They have a heart for this,” Bennett said. “They all have that same heart and that connection with students.”
Bennett said she raised four children and the Lord sent ladies to help her. Sharing her conflicts, she said, “I was always taller (than others) and was told I was ugly and stupid.” She said because so many had helped her, God laid it on her heart to help others.
She said the Common Bond ministry is emotionally and socially designed to pull you out. “This is the place if you want to get on with your life,” Bennett said.
Lofty, who has a background in organizational skills, is the leader of mentors and she endeavors to pair participants with the right mentor. Although each staff member has her special ministry, she said they all work together as a team — meeting, listening and helping.
Elkins agreed they all support one another. “No job is more important — we put it all together. God has put people in place.”
The group advocates that grads, when they’re helped, should come back and help others.
When Bennett first felt the calling for the Common Bond ministry, the group didn’t know what curriculum to use and money was needed for students’ and teachers’ books.
The program doesn’t cost participants anything. And no one gets paid — all work is volunteer. But there is a need for funds. Bradley Baptist Association is appreciated for its sponsorship.
The critical need currently is for a computer lab and someone to teach. And mentors are encouraged to volunteer. Instructors and student guides are needed, also.
For information on how to be involved in the Common bond Christian Women’s Job Corps or to provide resources, call Lofty at 478-1417.
The next session begins in August. Two 16-week sessions are held each year.