COLUMBIA—St. Peter Church has a way to help improve the job prospects and spiritual outlook of unemployed men and women.
Helping Our People’s Employment started in mid-2009 as the economic downturn dealt an especially hard blow to South Carolina.
Since then, Deacon Ronald Anderson and a small staff of volunteers have met quarterly and in several small sessions with people from the community who have lost jobs, had hours reduced or who need to re-enter the workforce.
“We begin each workshop with Scripture, and it’s designed to let them know they’re not alone,” Deacon Anderson said. “God is right there with them. We do this because we believe that fear crushes a person, and the way to eradicate fear is to cling to Jesus Christ and His word.”
Sessions focus on skills such as writing a resume, setting a goal, techniques for interviews, communication skills, networking and how to begin a search. Deacon Anderson said the program is ecumenical and clients are diverse in age and professional background. He said several people have found work after taking part in H.O.P.E.
The program is one of several that has sprung up in South Carolina parishes in the past two years. Employment assistance programs have been offered at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island, St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville and Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia.
Deacon Anderson said the spiritual focus has been a big help to many people, who have said they feel completely adrift after a layoff. A biblical passage he has cited frequently is Matthew 6:25-34, in which Jesus tells his followers not to worry, but trust in God to provide the basic needs for their lives.
“It’s a good passage because it works very well to get discussions started,” he said. “It gets people to consider what are their needs in life, what do they rank as important in their lives, and where is God in their lives? They typically leave with a totally different mindset than when they came, because they realize God has not abandoned them. The layoff is not personal. It’s not something God did to you or that the company did to you. It’s the economy.”
Gary Miller, a volunteer and a member of St. Peter, said the scriptural base of the program “is the real beauty of it. That’s what is most reassuring to the people we serve.”
Miller has worked extensively with H.O.P.E. participants to improve resumes and search skills. He retired from the Department of Educational Studies at the University of South Carolina, where he trained students for counseling jobs. He said jobseekers need to keep resumes concise, well-organized and focused on skills that might enhance their appeal to a prospective employer.
Many people may need to reassess their skills related to the current job market, and be willing to return to school for additional training or to learn something new. He urges adults to contact technical colleges because they may offer strong job-counseling services to steer students to effective programs.
“One of the biggest things people need right now is encouragement,” Miller said. “People need to maintain a spirit of hope as they’re going through this. This is a life transition. My parents and their parents went through the Great Depression, and we’re not nearly as bad as what people faced there, but still this is a big transition people are going through.
“The economy boomed and people never thought of what would happen if the bubble burst,” he said. Miller said the program’s goal is to help people see the search for employment as legitimate work.
“We try to normalize the whole thing for people,” he said. “We tell them the best way to cope is to upgrade your resume and consider that each day, you’re working, and your job is to upgrade your resume and to find employment.”
Anyone interested in H.O.P.E. may call Deacon Anderson at (803) 779- 0036.