Posted on October 16, 2017 09:29
Earlier this year, Matthew Stock found himself down on his luck. A breakup with a girlfriend forced him out of their home. With nowhere to go, he stayed anywhere he could.
He quickly realized that without a job, it can be impossible to find a place to live, and without a place to live, it can be very difficult to get a job. It’s a Catch-22 that happens to many unemployed or under-employed people who find themselves in a bind – especially when they have no family or other resources.
Desperate for help, he went to The Clearinghouse on East Second Street and was referred to Jasmine Mardello, the case manager for the Rural Works program.
Rural Works is a free program supported by River Valley Resources and based on the Cincinnati Works program.
According to its website, the Jefferson County program is the only rural variation of this model in the nation. The goal is to help low-income residents – those who are unemployed or under-employed – overcome barriers to finding stable, long-term jobs that pay from $7.25 to $10 per hour, with health benefits. Long term, the program works to help those people find better-paying jobs so they can become economically self-sufficient.
The four-step program requires participants to pass a drug screen and background check. Those who are entered into the program must complete a 30-hour job-readiness workshop to learn soft skills, such as the importance of getting to work on time, as well as proper dress and behavior for the workplace.
From there, participants learn how to launch a job search; they learn interview skills, as well as how to fill out applications and prepare resumes.
Once they complete the program, the participant must find and hold a job for at least a year. They then work with Mardello, who helps them continue to improve their skills to increase their marketability and wages.
When Stock entered the program in March, Mardello set to work getting him a room in a downtown boarding house. Within a week of graduating from the program, he was called for an interview with Amber Weatherbee, manager of Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop.
Weatherbee hired him on the spot, and he’s been working there ever since.
“He seemed really willing to work and he wanted a job,” she said Friday during the late lunch shift. “He’s a great employee. He’s always on time and always willing to help. He has the best attitude.”
Stock pulsates with energy as he juggles the responsibilities of being a full-time fry cook for a very busy restaurant.
At first, Stock said, he was just happy to get a job. “But they helped me, and I appreciate that.”
Weatherbee has helped Stock learn to save money. Today, he is self-sufficient, with his very own apartment on East Second Street.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “I could have been homeless. I could have been. But I was determined not to be. ... Thank God there’s people out there who will help you, you know, when you help yourself.”
He loves his job, his boss, his co-workers and taking care of the customers who come in to eat and support the restaurant, which has been a Madison staple since 1933.
“I plan to be here a long time,” he said. “They’re my family.”
He also stays in regular contact with Mardello, just to check in. “I can’t thank her enough,” he said.
Mardello is so proud of what Stock and her other successful graduates have accomplished that she recounted their stories in her most recent annual report.
She told of Ashley Collett, who graduated in May and has since earned a Home Health Aide certificate and then completed a program through WorkIN to become a certified nursing assistant. She is employed at River Terrace.
Collett, whose two young sons died in April in a Butlerville house fire, pushed through her pain and extreme depression to complete both programs and be successful to honor the memory of her boys, Mardello said.
“I don’t think that I could bounce back as she did and use it as a force” to motivate herself and be successful, Mardello said.
Phillip Levi Carter graduated the program in October 2016.
“He came to me kind of skeptical, at first,” Mardello said. But he worked hard and landed his dream job as a officer at the Madison Correctional Unit. He now is working nights at a second job at Planet Fitness, she said.
Like Stock, Carter also was able to save money and get his own apartment, Mardello said, adding that the second job has enabled him to buy a brand-new car.
Mardello knows what her clients have been through. She is one of the first to have been accepted into the Jefferson County Drug Court program and is also a graduate of the Rural Works program.
Her first job out of the program was sweeping the parking lot at Wendy’s for $6.60 an hour. In a few years, she worked her way up to general manager of the Jeffersonville store and a $26 hourly wage.
“But I was working 80 hours a week,”she said. Not only did she begin developing stress-related health issues, as a single mother, she had little time left to be there for her teenage children.
She took a risk and agreed to interview for a receptionist position at The Clearinghouse. She knew it would be a deep pay cut, but she wanted more time with her children. And ever since completing the Rural Works program, working for the program became her goal.
After her interview with Molly Dodge and Margie Olson, her persistance paid off. Instead of the receptionist job, she was hired as a case manager in July 2016.
So far this year, she has graduated 90 people from the Rural Works program; 73 percent found jobs and 50 percent have been employed longer than 90 days.
“Rural Works and drug court saved my life,” she said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about people who come from corrections.”
In turn, she has shown others the secret to her success. “I tell them, ‘If you want a better life, because I’m a graduate of Rural Works, this is what I did to get where I am. If you do what I did, you’ll get there.’”
For more information about the program, call The Clearinghouse at (812) 265-2652.