Anyone looking for work wants to hear the question, “When can you start?” For many, the next question they ask themselves is “How can I afford to start a new job?” Cumberland Good Samaritans, with the help of the United Fund of Cumberland County, has been addressing this challenge for clients for over 10 years through its Barrier Fund.
“A new job often creates new expenses that can be a critical obstacle for someone trying to better their future,” stated Melanie Phillips, Cumberland Good Samaritans assistant executive director and social services coordinator. “It is easy to tell someone to get a job, but the need for required equipment, uniforms and fuel expense until that first paycheck comes, can sometimes be enough to cause someone to fail before they even get started.”
For example, many local employers require steel-toed boots, skid resistant shoes or uniforms. There may be an unexpected car repair or a license that needs to be updated. With that first paycheck sometimes weeks away, a critical employment opportunity may be turned down.
Cumberland Good Samaritans recognized that this was an area where a huge impact could be made. The Barrier Fund was created and averages assisting about 100 clients a year with an annual budget of $10,000. Clients are asked to provide details from the employer regarding their hiring status and the required equipment or uniforms. Fuel to get to work may also be offered, when proof of a valid driver’s license can be provided.
“There may be other needs that can be met through the direct services department such as food or help with living expense,” Phillips stated. “The staff at Good Sams strives to see the big picture in every situation, so that we can offer as many solutions as possible. It is always rewarding to help a working family become self-sufficient. Our partnerships in the community are invaluable in helping make that happen.”
The Tennessee Technological Center at Crossville is one of those partners. Cumberland Good Samaritans is often asked to serve as a work study or internship site for their students. This offers students a chance to put newly learned skills to practice in a real working environment and to establish work history and references to use when they are ready to seek permanent employment. As a result of this partnership, Good Samaritans has occasionally had the opportunity to hire students based on their recommendation from TTCC instructors. Needs have been met utilizing the Barrier Fund for some of those students.
Most recently, two such students were brought to the attention of CGS. When the warehouse had an unexpected job opening, TTCC Instructor Stacy Johnson was contacted for a possible placement from the student body. He was able to immediately recommended electronics technology student Scott Robbins for the job. Robbins serves on the Student Leadership Council as well as having the reputation of being an excellent adult learner.
Johnson stated, “It is great having a relationship with Good Sams that is promoting success for our students.”
CGS was proud to learn that Robbins and fellow student David England, a machine tool student, had been chosen to attend the State Skills USA competition in Chattanooga in May. Carol Price, former CGS assistant executive director and social services coordinator who now serves as the technological foundations instructor at TTTC, contacted Phillips for possible barrier assistance for these clients with required needs for the competition. Price knows first-hand how a client’s success can all depend on a small unmet necessity.
She stated, “It’s just that little hand up that can make such a big difference.”
Required clothing was purchased for Robbins and England, who both came home from the competition with gold medals in their fields. They will be competing on a national level in Kansas City the end of June. Robbins was also provided with the appropriate shoes and clothing required for his new job and other direct service needs. CGS is excited to play a small part in their achievements and look forward to celebrating their successful careers after completing studies at TTCC.
Cumberland Good Samaritans is grateful for the support of the United Fund and private donations from area business, individuals and churches which support the Barrier Fund, providing these unique needs to residents of Cumberland County. Proceeds from the sale of items donated to the Cumberland Good Samaritans Thrift Store are returned to the community in the form of vital services to improve circumstances and provide hope for a brighter future.
The United Fund of Cumberland County offers financial assistance to non-profit organizations serving Cumberland County residents. Now in its 46 year, the United Fund continues to raise funds in order to meet the many needs of this community. Contact the United Fund at 484-4082 for more information.