By SHEILA OJENDYK
TAYLORS — Prince of Peace Parish has a ministry that may be unique for the Diocese of Charleston: an employment support group.
Denise Thompson and Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch, former family counselor at Prince of Peace, conceived the idea of an employment support group about two years ago. They recognized the impact of unemployment on families in the parish and decided to do something about it. These two industrious women recruited other experts in human resources and business to develop a comprehensive support ministry. The employment support group welcomed its first unemployed parishioners in February of 1997 and has been going strong ever since.
Larry Wilkas took over leadership after Thompson’s company transferred her to Chicago. The employment support group has since broadened its focus to serve anybody in the community, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who needs help finding suitable employment. The goal of the group remains unchanged: provide the skills to help people help themselves.
The people who volunteer their time, the human resource professionals and business people, function as mentors. Those who come to meetings because they are unemployed or underemployed are clients. Each client is assigned a mentor who works one on one with him or her.
Each mentor brings specific expertise to the group, and together they offer a complete package of services to clients. Mentors assist with resume preparation, job search strategies, interviewing techniques, networking, personal appearance, moral support and more. The group also maintains a book of current job openings for clients and a book of resumes for potential employers.
Approximately 60 people have found suitable employment in the year and a half that the employment support group has been active.
The employment support group meets the second Tuesday of every month at Prince of Peace. Each meeting begins and ends with a prayer and includes a seminar on some element of job hunting.
The most recent meeting was July 14, and Carolyn Elsea, human resources manager of RMT, Inc. (Greenville division) spoke on job hunting from “the other side of the desk.”
Topics covered at earlier meetings include interviewing, starting a business, personal finance and motivation. Some of these seminars were videotaped. Wilkas also maintains a library of resource material for clients.
A Prince of Peace parishioner, an engineer, wrote of the group, “The professional counseling service the Employment Support Group provided resulted in more job leads in four weeks than I have seen in the previous months. Now I am re-employed, and my family and I are thrilled.”
For more information about Prince of Peace’s employment support group, contact Larry Wilkas at (864) 322-8716.