Sanford Jobseekers pledges to serve 'til one person is left'
It's a strange thing to hope one's organization will dwindle in numbers, but it's something Sanford Jobseekers Director Cindy Hall does every week.
Originating from a local need within the First Baptist Church of Sanford, Hall began holding weekly meetings for local residents seeking unemployment during the height of the Great Recession in 2009, and, now, Sanford Jobseekers celebrated its fourth anniversary Wednesday.
With Lee County's unemployment rate still one of the highest in the state — 11 percent in May — the need for job-related services remains. Several Jobseekers lost their federal unemployment benefits, Hall said, after changes enacted by the state legislature.
"It's a catch-22," Hall said. "We hope to not see you, but we'll just keep going until one person is left."
The group marked its anniversary by hearing testimonials of people were were successful in finding a job through the organization during its meeting Wednesday.
Rhett Isley, who was unemployed for more than 17 months, said he was not prepared to be out of work for so long and he landed two different jobs through the network.
"We all need to feel a part of something, and when unemployed, that need to help can intensify," Isley said. "For me, it was help out or be very lost, and Cindy provided the opportunity to use my individual gifts helping to support the group and ultimately remain sane."
Julie Childress, another local individual who found employment through Jobseekers, said her life was blessed by attending the weekly meetings and that she left each session feeling energized.
"The job-seeking strategies were always helpful and up to date," she said. "The information on community resources was extremely valuable, and the job leads so appreciated. But it was the smiles and hugs from people who truly understood what I felt like that kept me going."
The Lee County Employment Security Commission office has worked with the Jobseekers since the organization's inception, according to local ESC manager Josephus Thompson.
"I think it's a great grassroots movement to assist clients with finding jobs and to network with people who are having a difficult time seeking a job," Thompson said, "plus the fellowship."
The moral support and camaraderie were draws for Sanford resident Paul Dickens, who lost his Greensboro human resources job earlier this year.
"It's very supportive," he said. "Knowing there are people like yourself and in the same boat, looking for jobs."
During the sessions, job seekers spend the first 30 minutes networking with other individuals before beginning an hour-long workshop, which can vary from entering a new work field and crafting a resume to budgeting and stress management. They also hold a devotional and celebrate any job landings or interviews the attendees may have.
"This is a hard time in people's lives," Hall said. "They need support, and where does our support come from but the Lord?"
Sanford Jobseekers meets at 8:30 a.m. every Wednesday at the First Baptist church, located at 202 Summitt Drive.