Cheryl Witherspoon shares information, offers support

    You might think not much is happening within Saint Benedict Education 
Center if you see the empty hallways, darkened offices, or the few cars in the  
parking lots.  Not true.  Needs of participants, commitment of staff, and 
availability of technology come together to produce amazing results.

    Case manager Cheryl Witherspoon continues to meet weekly with her 
clients--over the phone, as do all of the staff.  If someone can’t keep the 
appointment it is quickly re-scheduled.  “I also contact them through text 2-3 
times a week or via the phone to see how they are, check on assignments and see 
if they need anything.” 

    Sharing information and offering support through frequent and regular 
contact is important, particularly during these challenging days.  Cheryl shares 
helpful information with them, happenings in the community, and SBEC updates.  
She helps them address needs associated with employment and childcare 
issues—remotely.   She continues to make referrals to familiar local resources for 
needed services.  In addition, case managers now assist their clients in 
understanding all the accommodations these agencies have had to make during 
this time of the pandemic. 

    Information regarding various types of assistance particular to this 
time of the coronavirus are constantly being reported.  Differing stories and 
complicated directions often accompany this.  Cheryl and all the case managers 
help their clients know what resources are available to them, and perhaps even 
more important, how to work through the process to receive the assistance.

    SBEC’s Workforce Readiness Specialists are working with participants to 
develop or refine their job readiness skills. Participants are encouraged to think in 
terms of selecting and preparing for a career path, rather than the more 
narrowed task of “finding a job.”

    Mary Lou McCall tells of how, using the technology now available, she calls
and messages her students weekly.  She sends job readiness skills lessons which 
they complete and return.  In addition, Mary Lou has a weekly video class during 
which the students interact with each other, sharing stories, problems and 
solutions, relating the lesson plan to their real-life situations.  Mary Lou says: “As 
mostly single mothers who are teaching their children at home during these times 
most share that this task is overwhelming and can be frustrating.”  These 
weekly interactions are helpful in many ways.
   
    Specialist Don Feeney speaks of the videos he has created to teach his job
readiness skills lessons, which also include assignments that are to be returned to 
him.  Don prepares paper copies of his lessons and assignments for a couple 
students who need this accommodation.

    The Workforce Readiness Specialists do follow job openings and provide 
job leads to their clients.  Extended conversations, however, revolve around 
“career paths”.  This involves knowing the training needs that are involved in
these paths and ways to engage in that training.  Don speaks of different sources 
for this on-line training, depending on the type of technology his students have. 
He searches for what is available and connects his students to it.  Much
of his time is also spent responding to questions and offering encouragement.

    The Mending Place work continues.  It has quite a few customers even 
though the types of jobs currently accepted are limited due to restrictions      
on close interactions.  Times for curbside drop-offs and pick-ups are arranged by 
calling ahead.

    Cynthia Aulenbacher, seamstress, has been preparing video tutorials 
for participants to use at home.  These will offer directions for different sewing
projects.  The next step will be to help those interested obtain the tools they 
need:  fabric, thread, scissors, etc. -- perhaps even a sewing machine.

    Cynthia has also collaborated with Pat Witulski, O.S.B., supervisor of the 
community helpers service component of the SBEC program.  Participants in 
community helpers will have the opportunity, while at home, to make animal 
blankets for animal shelters.  The Mending Place will provide supplies, as needed.     

    Is anything happening within Saint Benedict Education Center?  Absolutely!
As always when the needs of the participants meet the care and commitment 
of staff -- with the addition of technology – the results produced are amazing.

[See companion article on Treasures & Such page.]