FEDCAP Finds Jobs for Impoverished Parents

FEDCAP employees, city officials, and community members gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the agency in Calais on Barker Street on November 30th. Since it began operating in Calais in February, the branch has found jobs for 51 of its 60 clients, some of whom have never worked before. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

Being in poverty is a sadly familiar situation for many families in Washington County. Economically speaking, the area has long been challenged to provide its residents with steady, reliable work, particularly in recent decades when the structure of families and the available resources have been changing and the cost of living has been increasing. Not having consistent income can be devastating physically and psychologically for parents who are seeking to raise their children in a stable environment. 

It is exactly those families that FEDCAP is designed to reach. Since opening in Calais and in Machias earlier this year, the agency has worked hand-in-hand with local parents to find them jobs that suit their interests and their abilities. The organization contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services to work with families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]. 

The success rate for FEDCAP has been impressive. Of the approximately 60 clients that have come to the Calais office since February, 51 of them have found employment. Many of those who find work with the help of FEDCAP have never had jobs before, indicating exactly how vulnerable the people who seek help there are. Approximately 80 percent of the clients between both offices have been women. 

“We help them meet their goals and teach them some skills,” said Karyn Flood, Intensive Case Manager for the Calais and Machias office. “We really empower them to be the best that they can be.” Flood is the first person that clients interact with when they come in, and she knows how important it is to connect with them. “When a lot of people come in here, they’re so overwhelmed and they’re scared. The first thing we do is put them at ease. We tell them we’re here to help them.”

According to Flood, many of the clients that come in consider TANF and FEDCAP to be a last resort, and they carry a sense of shame with them. Through working with Flood and a weeklong Power of Possible class, clients are encouraged to reclaim their self-esteem. “We teach them how to walk in and do a job interview, or how to hold their heads high and be proud of who they are,” Flood said. When clients are ready, they work with employment specialists to determine what kinds of jobs they would be best suited for. “I help them do job searches within the field that they’re interested in,” said Evelyn Lewey-Dore, Employment Specialist at the Calais office. 

The FEDCAP office includes a job postings board, a networking room filled with computers for online job searches and resume building, a small kitchen, and – as one of its best features from Flood’s perspective – a closet filled with donated professional clothing. “Sometimes people that haven’t worked don’t have the attire that they need to go in for an interview,” Flood said. The closet has a selection of office attire, scrubs, and shoes, all of which can be taken or borrowed by clients to help them land the job they aspire to. “They come in, and they’re in awe,” Flood said of the reaction that clients have upon seeing the closet. Donations have come from around the community, and more are being accepted, particularly of business-attire shoes.

The effect of FEDCAP on its clients has been overwhelmingly positive. One area in the hallway is decorated with quotes from past clients. “I love coming to this office! The staff treat you like a person, not a client. I hope you never change, nor give up on us. You have shown me the way to work through barriers I have struggled with and keep moving forward,” reads one comment. “I began to realize that everything that I want for my daughter and I really is possible,” reads another. 

Several clients have pursued schooling with the help of FEDCAP, including 14 that have completed or are in the process of completing either a CRMA or CNA program at Washington County Community College or the University of Maine at Machias. All of the ones that have completed the course have found jobs.

“I figure if I can make one person a day feel that they’re important and that we care and we can make that little bit of difference in their life, then my job is done,” Flood said. “I feel like this is my calling. We like to help people and create a positive experience.”