”Ready for a new challenge”: The Alton Salvation Army prepares job seekers for success

By: Sacre Ntumba and Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

It’s Friday July 1 and today, we are visiting The Salvation Army’s Alton corps. As an intern, this is my first visit to a Salvation Army community center, and I am struck by how welcoming the place is. Here, visitors are greeted by a warm and welcoming staff, and even the clients being helped seem to be happy to be here.

The Alton Worship and Community Center is a social services hub for this blue collar community, and today one of the thrice-weekly job training classes is about to take place. From the looks on the faces of everyone in this room, one can tell that these people have felt downtrodden and that the job search has taken a toll on them, but it is clear that this is a place of refuge and that they are hopeful that this training will help them find the job that will turn their life around.

On this particular morning, fifteen people of various ethnicities, education levels and professional backgrounds, ranging in age from early 20’s to maybe 60 years of age, are all gathered in the room. One young mother has her young children playing at her feet, while another takes diligent notes. Some wear casual clothing, while others are dressed for success, as if they are ready to interview at any moment. The attendees listen carefully as Christine Pavlow, of Hoylton Youth and Family Services teaches them how to prepare for the interview process and coaches them with a question and answer session.

After the lesson, the attendees break out into smaller groups and act out an interview with their classmates. Some do well, while one woman tears up as she has her mock interview and turns to the class saying, “This is how nervous I get in an interview.” Those that struggle have Christine and their classmates to turn to. Overall, many of those in attendance all seem to understand and employ the principles that Pavlow taught them, and for those that struggle, Christine coaches them through. On difficult questions, the whole class works to suggest a better answer for their classmates. As I watch this, I am truly struck by the way it felt like these people were all a part of a big family working toward one common goal, and how determined they seem that no one be left behind.

In the beginning it all looked like just another job class, which are becoming so common place in this down economy, but towards the end, the true spirit of The Salvation Army shone through, as we watched people work to help each other rise above.

 

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