Leesville outreach vision helps neighbors seek, keep jobs

By Jessica Brodie

LEESVILLE—A group of men and women have a better shot at checking “find a great job” off their New Year’s resolution list thanks to a free outreach program offered by members of a United Methodist church.

Four members of Leesville UMC, Leesville, organized a weekly Job Seeking/Job Keeping workshop this fall to help community members develop needed skills to find and retain employment. Spearheaded by Dr. Kaye Shaw and assisted by Bonnie Hall, Rosemary Knowlton and Stephanie Shull, the class included everything from navigating the job search, applying for a job and interviewing to building skills for work and life, including attitude, communication, responsibility and problem-solving. The class also covered resumes, cover letters and email etiquette.

Leesville pastor the Rev. Sandra King said the outreach program was developed out of the church’s vision to “see the light and be the light.” King said the church has seven goals to help them carry out their mission, with community outreach being one of them.

“We know that there is a need in our community of Batesburg-Leesville for job skills,” King said. “This is just one example of ways in which our congregations can use the gifts of our members (in this case, educators and business professionals) to help our neighbors.”

Too often, King said, Christians think outreach is merely giving stuff to those in need, which it surely can be.

“But when that is our only concept of outreach, we miss the opportunity for our folks to use their gifts, expertise and passion to enable others to succeed,” King said.

Indeed, Shaw said, that was much of what motivated her and the others to organize the workshop. She herself has always been inspired by Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will to given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

“It is so rewarding to see others step out of their comfort zone and work to improve their lives,” Shaw said.

The workshop was offered Sept. 13 to Nov. 22 at the Batesburg-Leesville campus of Midlands Technical College. Shaw drew from two texts in the class, “Building Your Career,” designed and published by the Midlands Education and Business Alliance, and “They Called ‘Me’ for an Interview … Now What Do I Do?,” published by Columbia Metropolitan Airport. The class featured guest speakers and assistance from the Batesburg-Leesville Lifelong Learning Center, as well as mock interviews designed to help participants strengthen job-hunt skills. Participants were also encouraged to engage with the Lifelong Learning Center to do a series of free job skills assessments and practice tests, as well as utilize career assessment and exploration tools through the South Carolina Career Information System’s, a career-planning resource.

“As one of the leaders, I was encouraged by the participants who initially expressed doubt and fear of being in a classroom setting,” Shaw said. “They were all older than traditional students and felt that they may not be competitive in today’s job market. They quickly mastered their fears and put their trust in us, always doing everything we asked of them.”

King said even though their church is relatively small, with fewer than 400 members, their effort has the potential to make a big impact, not only now but also far into the future, and she is proud of Shaw and the other members for using their gifts to help others.

“If those who participated in the workshop can find jobs or keep good ones, then they are in a better position to change their future, the future of their families and of our community,” King said.

Shaw said she felt the highest compliment came from one of the participants, who said, “I’m so glad that I made myself come to this training; you have to do this again so that others can gain confidence in themselves as I did.”

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