Churches Are Helping the Unemployed

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With millions of Americans out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, Job Search Ministries at parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg are providing important resources and support.

“Churches, in particular, have the opportunity and the obligation to help the unemployed because work is so important to the nature of humanity that when the ability or opportunity to work is not there, it’s dehumanizing,” said Jim Kissane, Coordinator of In Between Jobs Support Group (aka Tweeners) at St. Paul Parish in Tampa.

Jim shared that people often feel shame when they are out of work, either suddenly or long-term, and that shame keeps them from stepping forward to receive help.

As a way to ease this concern, St. Paul’s job search ministry is focused on providing a dependable support system for job seekers to find emotional and spiritual affirmation, as well as techniques to help them find a job.

Ellen Rasmussen attended Tweeners for 10 months in 2009 after being laid off due to the recession. It gave her direction in a time that could have been very stressful. Now retired, she helps run the group every week.

“Tweeners kept me focused on my journey to figure out what was next. They offered people to talk to, resources online, the ability to network and other techniques. It was reinforcing, supportive, I learned things and then I felt like I could help other people,” she said.

Upon registration for the group, individuals will receive two downloadable guides with spiritual reflections, prayers, and various technical materials such as resume and cover letter templates.

A typical Tweeners meeting includes prayer, the breaking open of scripture, and a technical discussion of what a job seeker needs to be skilled in 2020. They also offer mock interview sessions with trained professionals to aid those with upcoming interviews.

Tweeners has assisted over 4,500 people find a job since its inception in 2006.

The melding of faith and job search techniques has been invaluable to those who go through the program.

“Putting job search in the context of getting help from other people that share your faith values and support you in that journey added a completely different dimension. I was going to professional outsourcing too and that didn’t have the same impact. They were giving you guidance, but this was a completely other dimension of trusting in God,” said Ellen Rasmussen.

“Faith goes hand-in-hand with the job search,” agreed Lou Ricca, founder of the Job Search Ministry at Nativity Parish in Brandon.

Nativity’s ministry was born out of Lou’s own experience with joblessness.

“I was out of work for about 4 months in 2016. Searching for a job, even in the best of times, is disruptive and mysterious. I found myself more confused about the process than I thought I would be. Over the course of those few months I met a lot of people who were helping others so I promised the Lord that when I landed a job, I would help people who were struggling,” he said.

Nativity’s job search meetings take place once a month on a Saturday morning. The attendees share challenges they’ve faced in the job market and engage in exercises to start thinking about what a job search looks like in the current market. A guest speaker, typically an HR or recruiting professional, will share advice and best practices for job seekers.

Both Nativity and St. Paul’s Job Search Ministries are free and open to anyone- Catholic or not.  They are currently being held on Zoom. For more information, please visit Nativity and St. Paul’s websites.

Article by Megan MacElroy.