Crossing outreach program teaches how to get a job and how to keep it

Blessing Hospital employee Tammy Koehler is a graduate of the Jobs for Life program. An outreach ministry of The Crossing, the program uses professionals in the community to help those struggling to find adequate employment. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Feb. 9, 2013 8:26 pm Updated: Feb. 24, 2013 1:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Tammy Koehler felt like she was sitting on top of the world a few years ago.

Then within what seemed like a matter of moments, a combination of personal hardships left her wondering what the future held. She saw her marriage fail and her job as an industrial lab technician eliminated.

"The rug can be pulled out from under you at any time," Koehler said.

Depression became another threatening problem.

"Your life can fall apart, and you begin to doubt yourself," she said.

That was then, this is now.

Tammy's "now" involves a woman with a new and brighter outlook, not only in the work force arena but with life in general.

Koehler, who now works in patient access at Blessing Hospital, is in her relatively new position thanks to the effort she put into the Jobs for Life program. The program is described as an "intense" outreach to help those individuals who need a job, have lost a job or seen it eliminated, have had problems keeping a job, or are underemployed and need additional work.

Jobs for Life is an outreach ministry of The Crossing that is using professionals in the community to help those struggling to find adequate employment. The goal is to improve participants' life skills, teach better interviewing techniques, learn how to build relationships and strengthen other weaknesses that may have been hindering them in past job searches.

Jerry Douglas of Chaddock said class participants are not treated with kid gloves. Chaddock's focus is on many of the life skills a person will need to both obtain and retain quality employment.

"What we have is a 16-class curriculum reduced to 12, and those classes can be intense 2 to 2 1/2-hour sessions," Douglas said. "We address both successes and failures, but do so from a biblical point of view. We show how there were both successes and failures in the Bible."

Students learn more about how to conduct job searches, network and improve their resumes. Representatives from area employers also come in to talk to the classes.

"There is a lot of work involved, and there is homework," Douglas said.

Bruce Freeman of The Crossing said the church has conducted two sessions and has purposely kept the classes relatively small, about 15 or so in each. A third session is being organized this month and will likely begin in a couple of weeks or early March.

"The class is a big commitment, and we have some who drop out," Freeman said. "In our first two sessions, we have graduated seven and nine."

The tough love approach is what is needed in many cases, Douglas feels.

"It can be a pretty discouraging world we live in, and a course like this is gratifying from my standpoint because it gives people hope," Douglas said.

That's exactly what Koehler found.

"I feel good about myself," she said. "I love my job and the environment I work in."

Koehler also is enrolled in classes at John Wood Community College to further enhance her job skills.

The Jobs for Life classes have drawn a mix of ages and gender. The first session was predominantly those in their 30s, while the second session was mostly those in their 40s and 50s. Both individuals and couples have taken part.

Ron Tallcott, the human resources manager for the Blessing Health System, also teaches in the Jobs for Life program. He deals with a wide variety of topics, ranging from how to go about finding proper child care while at work to overcoming a criminal record.

"We're not here to teach the easy way out, and some embrace that -- but some give up," Tallcott said. "We try and point out that people in the Bible dealt with just as many issues as we do today. Life is never easy, and it never will be."

Both Tallcott and Douglas say they enjoy this type of "adult ministry," because they see the problem areas they are addressing every day in the work place.

"I see people trying to get jobs who do not have a lot of the skills that we are trying to teach in this program," Tallcott said. "We are trying to teach people how to get past the roadblocks. We're trying to help them, not just turn them out into the world."

Claire Robinson recently "retired" after 21 1/2 years of work at the United Way of Adams County, but that was short-lived. Much of her time with the United Way had been spent working with people and helping fill local needs -- and that's exactly what she's doing with the Jobs for Life program, but doing so as a volunteer mentor because she believes in what the outreach is trying to accomplish.

"We're helping restart their lives," Robinson said. "It means so much for them, but it's also rewarding for me. I have learned a lot myself."

Robinson's mentoring serves as a go-between role for those trying to establish -- or in cases like Koehler's, re-establish -- themselves as a productive member of the work force.

Koehler is hoping to give back to Jobs for Life at some point in the same role Robinson serves.

"This program was helpful in a lot of ways, and I would like to volunteer as a mentor," she said.

Robinson is excited about Jobs for Life's long-term potential.

"This could be so beneficial to so many people," Robinson said. "Not only do they learn how to get a job, but they learn how to keep it. This teaches real commitment."