Center opens doors for unemployed

November 21, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

William Butler III was 20, unemployed, living in a public housing project and the unmarried father of two when he decided to do something with his life.

He enrolled in a job training program sponsored by Anne Arundel County's Business and Workforce Development Center and got

a job with Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., where his supervisor called him a "model employee."

That job whetted his appetite for electronics and led him to the Army. He leaves tomorrow for a tour of duty in Alaska.

On Friday, Mr. Butler was among eight workers honored for their success after completing job training programs administered by the Business and Workforce Development Center.

The center, formerly the county Office of Manpower, is a nonprofit corporation that helps the unemployed find jobs.

Others honored at the banquet included a former deadbeat dad, a one-time drug addict, a previously unemployed grandmother and a once homeless mother.

They are among 1,000 people who have been trained by the center since it was turned into a private business in January. The program offers courses in carpentry, office skills, medical work and cooking. Courses vary from a few months to a year.

"We witness countless acts of courage every day," said Dorothy McGuinness, the center's president.

Three years ago, Janet Cook assumed custody of her 5-year-old grandson and was caring for an ailing husband. When her husband died, the 50-year-old Severn woman was left with no insurance and no money.

She applied for welfare and was referred to the Business and Workforce Development Center.

Through the center, she received a high school equivalency diploma and learned to type, completing her training despite suffering injuries in an automobile accident that left her hospitalized for six weeks.

"I didn't think I had much chance to get anywhere, but they showed me I still had some value," Mrs. Cook said.

Now she works as a secretary at TAD Technical Services Corp. in Hanover.

Jessica James, 23, of Hanover had started using drugs at 14 and was living in a shelter by 16. At 17, she became pregnant.

When an abusive boyfriend landed her in a Florida hospital, she decided it was time to get her life together.

She came home to Anne Arundel with her son and enrolled in a job training program.

Now she works for an answering service.

"It's pretty nerve racking, but I like it," Ms. James said.

Two years ago, Carla Drew and her 4-year-old daughter depended on welfare.

Today, Ms. Drew works as a paralegal secretary in a Virginia law firm and plans to go to school to pursue a legal career.

Ms. Drew owes her success to the jobs program, a little luck and a lot of determination.

She was enrolled in Project Independence, a welfare to work program, when she entered a promotional contest at radio station MIX 106.5 FM and won tuition to a paralegal school in Virginia.

Ms. Drew was hired by Gannon, Cottrell and Ward, an Alexandria, Va., law firm. Even when her car was stolen, she continued working by taking four buses to work each morning.

"We are very proud of her," said Margaret Gannon-Sarisky, Ms. Drew's employer.

Ms. McGuinness said the people honored by the Workforce Development Center and its advisory arm, the Private Industry Council, are typical of the people who come to the center for training and are able to move from welfare to work.

"They should be seen as successes because they have succeeded in getting a job," she said.

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