By Norman Jameson
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
CLYDE, N.C. (ABP) — Economic life is never easy in western North Carolina’s mountains and 70 percent of the poor are locked into “generational poverty” that holds them back like the concrete anchors on their mobile homes.
At least the lucky ones have mobile homes. With a five-year waiting list for subsidized housing and a shelter open only six months a year, many poor are reduced to living in tents, under bridges and in a carousel of relatives’ homes, according to Samantha Ledford.
Ledford leads LifeWorks in Clyde, N.C., a center that incorporates Christian Women’s Job Corps to teach job and life skills to women “ready for a change.” A coalition builder, Ledford constantly pulls partners into her work.
Nearby Haywood Community College provides teachers for job and life skills classes and has provided some equipment. Clients in the program are assigned a personal mentor, which offers the highest possibility of success.
Haywood Baptist Association sponsors a relief center, which includes a food pantry and thrift store. LifeWorks is in that building, connected by function to many people who utilize the services.Ledford says their clients are women from all walks of life. Some even have college degrees. But they are abused, homeless, without work and lack self-esteem.
They come for a fresh start and that begins with an introduction to Jesus and to life and job skills, Ledford said. She attributes lack of life skills to dysfunctional families unable to teach them.
Ledford said just 30 percent of the poor are in “situational poverty,” an aberration caused by job loss, yet they are the ones that most helping agencies focus on because they are easier to “get back on their feet.”
To move past the remaining 70 percent in generational poverty, she said, requires a change in thinking.
“LifeWorks gives people hope,” Ledford said. She works the partnerships she’s formed and helps clients think outside the box “because the things you’ve been doing aren’t working, so let’s think of something else.”
LifeWorks runs client training in two cycles, each of which includes life skills. The first cycle is how to get a job and the second is about how to keep it.
Four of the six women who started last year completed both cycles. All four were jobless, with no goals or stated purpose. When they graduated all had jobs and two went on to college.
Ledford participated in Christian Women’s Job Corps training offered by North Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union in August, where she learned how important partnerships are. “I didn’t have any money, so I had to find partners,” Ledford said.
Ledford is a nurse by profession, but a chronic illness prompted doctors to say she should not practice that work anymore. In LifeWorks, she says she’s found her passion.
Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.
Source: Associated Baptist Press (www.apbnews.com)