HED:Empowering with hope, dignity and love
By John Armistead
Mable Kinermon moved to Tupelo from Chicago in April. She hasn’t been able to find a job. In fact, she hasn’t had a steady job in several years.
“I’m the type of person who was always independent,” said Kinermon, 38. “Then I just got sick and nobody wanted to hire me.”
Kinermon has a heart condition. She is willing to work hard, but she can’t lift heavy things.
“I’ve been depressed about it,” she said. “Nobody wants to give you a chance.”
A few weeks ago she turned to the Northeast Mississippi Christian Women’s Job Corps.
“What this program has done for me is to give me confidence and make me feel good,” she said. “You need to know someone cares about you. They’re giving me the confidence to try a little harder and get back out there again. It helps to know somebody is willing to stick out their neck for you.”
Currently, six area women, ages 23-45, are enrolled in the program which is housed at Tupelo’s First Baptist Church and meets 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Each woman hopes that, when the course is finished, she will be well on her way to a new life.
Hoping for a fresh start
“We’re trying to move women from dependency situations to becoming self-sufficient members of society,” said Julie Busby, project coordinator and a member of Pontotoc’s West Heights Baptist Church. “We are a program that tries to affect every aspect of a woman’s life.”
The purpose of the Christian Women’s Job Corps is to provide a Christian context in which women in need are equipped for life and employment. The goal is to offer the woman burdened with a poor self-image, depression and underemployment or unemployment and lack of adequate education a new life buoyed with hope, dignity, skills, empowerment and self-sufficiency.
“We take our ladies through a 10-week training program where they take courses in family and child care, health and nutrition, money management, and communication,” said Busby.
A large block of time is set aside for the career class.
“There is an emphasis on career development,” said Busby. “And from there we go into that career which best suits the client and how she gets it, how she does a resume, and handles a professional interview. And we have a Bible class on Tuesday mornings for an hour.”
There is no charge to the women who participate in the program.
What are the admission requirements?
“The biggest thing we ask for is that they have a desire to make a serious change in their life,” said Busby. “We do not put forth income level guidelines or any of that stuff.”
Tina Floyd, a 29-year-old single parent with two young children, has that desire and is working hard in the program.
“I think it’s going to equip me to find a job I can handle,” she said.
She is committed to the program and knows the teachers are committed to her.
“It’s really nice to know that somebody cares enough to help you better yourself in life,” she said.
Being a friend
Christian Women’s Job Corps is an outreach ministry of the Woman’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention, but people of other denominations also assist in the work.
The chairman of the local Job Corps advisory board is George Bogardus, a member of Tupelo’s St. Luke Methodist Church.
“We are trying to pick up the people that fall through the cracks and who are not taken care of by any government programs,” he said. “We can teach them how to go out and get a job and how to get themselves prepared for life, how to maintain a good lifestyle and help themselves as a family.”
To maximize a woman’s success in achieving these goals, she is assigned a mentor.
“We have mentors who sign a covenant with the client to be her mentor for a year,” said Busby. “We ask them to meet with their ladies at least once a week.”
Sue Jarvis, a member of Harrisburg Baptist Church, has been Mae Bluitt Warlick’s mentor for the last six weeks.
“I don’t know that I’ve done very much for her yet,” Jarvis said. “We’re just getting started, but I’ve been trying. We’ve gone out and had lunch and we’ve talked. She’s a very interesting person and I’m anxious to know who she is. I’m not concerned that she’s black and I’m white. I want to encourage her and to talk to her and say, ‘What do you want to do? How do you feel about this? How do you feel about that?'”
Jarvis expressed some frustration in knowing how she can help Mae at this point, but is hopeful that their relationship will deepen in the months ahead.
“Just like Mae said, we’re from different cultures and I don’t understand her ways and she doesn’t understand my ways, but I’m hoping that through all of this we can be friends and I can be a good influence in her life to encourage her to do more, maybe even something she hadn’t thought she could do, and maybe encourage her toward the Lord.”
Returning to help some day
Funding for the ministry comes from churches and individuals giving through the Lee County Baptist Association, which oversees the project.
“It’s the church’s responsibility because Christ acknowledged the poor and needy,” said Ralph Cain, director of outreach for the association. “The church is to take care of its people, not just its members.”
Mable Kinermon hopes one day she will be able to be on the helping end herself.
“Hopefully, when we’re through with this, I’ll get a job,” she said. “And I think it would be nice after I graduate to come back and be a mentor because I really know how they feel. I know how it is. A lot of people say they understand, but they don’t. I do understand.”