Take Charge Thursday: Support groups for the unemployed

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

It's Take Charge Thursday, and this week we're talking about new support groups in our area to help people get through these tough times.

As the ranks of the unemployed quickly grew over the past year, so did the need for this kind of help.

The groups say it's important to note what they don't do; they're not a job placement agency, they don't have jobs to offer, and they don't really have any money.

But what they do offer is an opportunity to get some encouragement, some job searching tips, and most importantly, work on networking skills.

Every week for the past few months, people have sat at tables in the basement of the Firehouse Church in South Bend, pouring out their private stories of struggle.

“I can talk easier to someone in the same position I am and learn from that person take their ideas and incorporate them into my style,” said Donald Locke, who was laid off from his HR position at an RV company 5 weeks ago.

This is Michiana Career Network. At their meetings, leaders ask everyone the same 3 questions:

What have you done for your job search efforts this week?

What have you done for yourself this week?

And what have you done for someone else this week?

Organizers say the last question can be the most therapeutic.

“That helps you get out of your own problems and your own issues and realize there's still a world out there that's functioning, and get rid of some of the anxiety,” said Carolyn Anderson, one of the organizers of the group.

MCN is a spin-off of a group called People Between Jobs, which has been in Elkhart for 7 years.

“Whether you've been on an assembly line for 18 years or whether you're the general manager of a hundred million dollar company, people between jobs make the same mistakes, and it's just astounding,” said Andy McCaskey one of the group leaders of PBJ.

As the need has grown, new groups like MCN are forming. But the ideas are very similar; offer emotional support, and let people learn from each other’s experiences.

“I’m learning from those who have been out of work a lot longer,” Locke said.

“(It’s a way) to get direction and to get feedback in terms of what you've been doing to find work, and to make mid course corrections so to speak, said Larry Podojil, an MCN attendee who has been laid off for 5 months.

Group members say each week; they also come away with something.

Maybe it's a lead on a job someone else had heard about, a new technique to use in their job search, or a little help with their resume.

“And it's all free so you know you can come to a meeting if you don't like what's going on you don't have to come back,” Podojil said.

If you’re interested in joining a group near you, they are all free. Here is the information for each program:

People Between Jobs meets every Monday at 8:00am at the First Presbyterian Church in Elkhart, 200 E. Beardsley Ave.

For more information, visit the link below or call (574) 264-3109

People Between Jobs 2, the recent expansion of the original program, meets every Tuesday at 8:00am at the Open Doors Center in Bristol, at the corner of State Road 15 and State Road 120.

For more information, call the Bristol United Methodist Church at (574) 848-4031

The Michiana Career Network meets every Friday at 12:30pm at the Firehouse (Clay United Methodist Church South), 17646 Cleveland Road, South Bend, IN.

For more information, visit the link above.

Meanwhile, Granger Community Church says they are working with MCN on establishing a regular meeting at their church. The launch date is tentatively planned for May 5th, and they plan to meet weekly at 9:30am on Tuesdays.

For more information on the new program, contact the church at (574) 243-3500.


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