Valley Works: Faith-based programs helping job seekers

FRESNO, Calif.

Some churches have developed faith-based programs to help job seekers because so many in their own congregations were facing unemployment.

It is a small intimate group, the perfect setting for someone needing support, those dealing with a crisis in their life and for some there is no worse crisis than losing their job.

"I think the hardest thing is the rejection that people feel. I think that can lead to depression and frustration. They don't know where to turn or what to do," church member Janis Ornelas said.

32-year-old Ornelas turned to a program started by her church, Northpoint Community in Northwest Fresno. The church reached out to its congregation when the economic crisis hit in 2008.

"It really hit the middle class - our congregation was impacted," Carlotta Carti of Northpoint Works Ministry said.

Curti heads the church's jobs ministry and says although it began as a way to help the congregation it soon embraced the entire community providing support and job readiness skills.

"A lot of people where grieving the loss of industry so they would never be getting a job in their industry and we were getting a lot of emotions," Curti said. "And we were trying to meet those needs using the Word."

"It really helped me look at my unemployment in a different way and I grew a lot in my faith," Ornelas said

Northpoint isn't the only church reaching out to help those struggling with job loss.

Yammilette Rodriguez is the Women's Ministries Director at United Faith Christian Fellowship Church in Southeast Fresno. She started My Sister's Closet, a ministry that provides professional clothing to women.

"Women need to be prepared for the workforce, they needed assistance with that. We said 'let's connect a career development program with the clothing piece'," Rodriguez said.

The program has been life changing for some. 58-year-old Josie De La Fuente, a single mom who never finished high school, says the program gave her the courage to continue her education.

"They showed me how to not be afraid and take that first step and go out and do what you've got to do," De La Fuente said.

Those in the faith-based community say they are only doing what they've been called to do - help others in their time of need.

For Rodriguez, whose husband pastors their church, that means being active partners with those in their neighborhood including the schools. They are building a community of people who believe in giving back and helping each other.

"The church is the important member of our community and I think it's crucial for the church to stand up and help my brethren," Rodriguez said.

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