Lisa circled the dark, desolate parking lot before shifting to park. It was the same routine she had done so many times before. With her car’s headlights turned down and her hand on the lock, Lisa eased her seat back and murmured, “God, if you want to take me tonight, you can go ahead and do it.”
This was life for Lisa. A car—her home. Trashcans—her food source.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” Lisa said. “I wasn’t supposed to be jobless, homeless and hopeless.”
Lisa, a mother, grandmother, proud veteran and St. Louis resident, worked the same job for 26 years. Unfortunately, reductions were made at the company, including Lisa’s position.
Alone and unemployed, Lisa began searching for a job but quickly discovered finding one to be a nearly impossible feat.
“I would take anything at that point, just to get my foot back in the door,” Lisa, age 58 recalled. “Things just weren’t turning out. The job market was for younger people, and they didn’t want someone my age.”
Depressed and without an income, Lisa was forced onto the streets, with her car as her only refuge.
“I was tired of having to find a safe place to live and hoping no one would break into my car at night. I got hungry. I was eating out of a trashcan. I didn’t have any money,” Lisa remembered. “It got to the point where I didn’t want to exist anymore. I was hoping that I could just disappear.”
Lisa had heard about employment agencies that help individuals get back on track with job placement, but it wasn’t until late one night—as she thought to herself, “No one would care if I died”—that she made a lifesaving call.
That phone call was to Employment Connection, a United Way-supported agency that assists individuals of all walks of life, including veterans, who struggle to overcome the barriers of unemployment.
After that call, Lisa said, “I began to feel like me again.”
United Way’s support allowed Employment Connection to provide Lisa a four-day program where she was taught proper résumé-writing and interview techniques. By the end of the process, Lisa was happier, more confident and within weeks, a full-time employee at Barnes Jewish Hospital. What started as a temp-to-permanent position in housekeeping quickly became a full-time, permanent position within a month. In addition to providing Lisa the necessary tools to get back on track, Employment Connection treated her depression and helped her secure an apartment as well as furnish it.
“If it wasn’t for United Way funding Employment Connection, I wouldn’t be here today,” Lisa said. “I probably would’ve checked out.”
Not only is Lisa working full time again, she’s also studying deaf communications at St. Louis Community College. One day she hopes to use her gift of sign language to help others communicate. Lisa spends her free time helping others as a volunteer on the board for Employment Connection and assisting veterans with their application processes. She also serves as a missionary at her church, cleaning the homes of seniors and making food baskets for homeless families.
“I want to help people so they don’t have to worry about spending money on groceries; they can have the money to buy their medications. They don’t have to make the decision, ‘Should I buy my medication or should I buy groceries?’ They’ll have groceries and medication,” Lisa said. When Lisa retires, she plans to continue helping others like this every day, full time.
“Not only did Employment Connection give me a job, but they made me feel like I was somebody. I became the person I needed to be again,” Lisa said with a smile. “And that feels a lot better than living in my car.”
In 1980, Employment Connection became a United Way member agency and expanded its job placement service beyond ex-offenders by assisting recovering substance abusers, the homeless, high-school dropouts, women on welfare, U.S. veterans and non-custodial fathers.
For more information, visit http://www.employmentstl.org or call (314)333.JOBS .
New diesel mechanic degree program
Vatterott College – St. Charles, an Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) accredited institution, recently received approval to begin offering a Diesel Mechanic Occupational Associate Degree program. This program will be offered at the St. Charles campus located at 3550 West Clay Street. Classes for this new program are slated to begin on Sept 23.
“We worked very hard to develop a program with the right mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training that is the most beneficial for students,” said Robert Donnell, campus director at Vatterott College in St. Charles. “This new degree program represents a significant educational commitment by our school.”
The Diesel Mechanic Associates of Occupational Studies program at Vatterott College will introduce students to fundamental diesel mechanic concepts, as well as provide an overview of electrical systems for medium to heavy-duty trucks. The Diesel Mechanic course then progresses toward more advanced topics, such as diesel engines, fuel systems, steering, suspension and more. Students receive hands-on diesel mechanic training through labs and an externship with the goal of preparing the graduate for entry-level employment as a diesel mechanic or diesel technician.
Individuals wishing to learn more about the new Diesel Mechanic Occupational Associate Degree Program or other programs offered at Vatterott College can visit www.vatterott.edu.
Summer institute students accepted to college
For the first time, graduates of the BESt Pharmacy Summer Institute have been conditionally accepted to attend St. Louis College of Pharmacy. The 12 graduates are entering their senior year in high school; they will be invited to attend the college in the fall of 2014 provided they meet admissions standards.
BESt is a joint effort by the College, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and Express Scripts.
Students completed the six-week summer enrichment program, which focused on preparing talented minority students for future careers in pharmacy and other health care professions. There are three levels, with separate coursework for students entering their sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. All students gained exposure to pharmacy and learned what it takes to succeed in college. Some of the graduates have attended BESt for three years.
The program co-directors are Isaac Butler, Pharm.D., MBA, of Express Scripts and Steven Player, Pharm.D., MBA, of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with several staff, faculty members, and students, helped facilitate classroom learning and field trips. Several former BESt students are currently attending the college.
The application process for next year’s BESt Summer Institute will begin in January. Additional information is available at www.stlcop.edu.