Benedictine Sisters of Erie Home Home

Meet SBEC Program Participants

Carla Pope

Carla Pope, St. Benedict Education Center program participant

Like all clients at St. Benedict’s Education Center (SBEC), Carla Pope was referred by the Erie County Assistance Office. She first learned about SBEC, however, from her niece who successfully completed the program and now works as a nurse aide at St. Mary’s Home of Erie.

Carla was at home for many years, trying to make ends meet with public assistance and the occasional babysitting job. She describes herself at that time as depressed. It made her very sad when her children wanted to go to a movie, or wanted a new pair of jeans and she simply could not give them these simple things. Eventually she was “tired of not doing anything with my life. I wanted to work and provide properly for my family.”

It was frightening for Carla when she first came to SBEC, yet she discovered that others had struggles similar to hers. “Oh my goodness, they were great!” responded Carla when asked about the staff at SBEC. While in the program, Carla learned how to use the Internet to search and apply for jobs. She learned how to develop a resume and cover letter as well as how to prepare for an interview. “I studied those questions and, you know… they asked them! I was prepared.”

While working in The Factory, Carla developed good habits: getting up in the morning, arriving on time for work, understanding responsibilities and completing assignments, taking a lunch hour and breaks. “I learned what a real work day might be like.” Looking back, Carla acknowledges that it was not easy yet she was supported all the way. “You have to want it and you have to work the program. They know their business and they will help you get where you want to go. My program coordinator was there for me every step of the way.”

“St. Ben’s also helped me in other ways. I was referred to Dress for Success where I was able to find clothes for my job interviews. The bus passes made it possible for me to go to my job interviews. I also earned Benny Bucks to use in the on-site store to purchase things we needed.”

For the past year, Carla has been working at JTM Foods, LLC, in the housekeeping department. Cleanliness is critical in a food manufacturing facility and Carla recognizes the importance of her work. She pays her bills on time and even has purchased a car. With health insurance benefits, Carla was able to get eyeglasses and visit the dentist. “I smile now. I never smiled before because of my teeth, but I smile now!” She said her children have noticed that she is not so worried about bills and food. “My goal this year is to save money — a little each month.”

She credits SBEC with turning her life around. Carla believes she would still be on public assistance, depressed, and her family at-risk were it not for the services offered by SBEC. “I get up, I get dressed, I fix my hair, I make a difference on the job — I am having so much fun with my life. Out here I feel respected; I am called ‘Miss Carla’ and it’s all because of St. Ben’s!”