Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ministries Help Jobless Keep the Faith; Church Programs Assist Unemployed in Finding God's Calling, and Work

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ministries Help Jobless Keep the Faith; Church Programs Assist Unemployed in Finding God's Calling, and Work

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

The struggle to find reliable, rewarding work has left Emile Ayoub feeling frustrated and a bit dejected.

The 60-year-old St. Augustine resident is a master electrician with years of experience. He has information-technology skills, a commercial driver's license and a strong work ethic.

But over the past year and a half, he's been laid off from one job and turned down for others for which, he says, he's more than qualified. He's taken a job driving school buses to make ends meet but faces losing his home as bills and questions pile up.

"As a Christian I was praying, and I asked God, 'Why?' "

Hoping to answer that question for Ayoub and thousands like him are an increasing number of faith-based programs around the First Coast offering a variety of support services for the unemployed.

Forging a unique partnership with a state-funded agency, their aim is to ease the anxiety and stress that comes from layoffs by serving as hubs where job seekers can find everything from resume preparation and interviewing advice to support groups and one-on-one counseling.

The theme that ties them together is a belief that a higher power has a reason and purpose - and ideal job - for every person.

That's the message Ayoub heard last week during a regular Tuesday night meeting from Harry Corbett, founder of the employment ministry at Fruit Cove Baptist Church.

"I have faith and I know he is going to get something to fit me," Ayoub said. "I'm just a little bit impatient."

Although Corbett founded his ministry in 2001, he and other observers say similar programs are sprouting up around the region as unemployment - hovering close to the 10 percent mark - hits members of more and more congregations.

A group of nine congregations, most of them in St. Johns County, is forming a coalition that will pool the collective job-hunting expertise and networking power of its members to host employment workshops.

This month, they're entering into a partnership with the state that will place mobile employment centers at participating churches, said Annie Grogan, a 19-year human resources executive, Creekside Christian Church member and leader of the coalition effort.

The creation of those ministries is coming just in time, said Candace Moody, vice president of communication at WorkSource, a state-funded workforce development agency.

The agency's budget was cut during the past five years, resulting in the closure of several career-placement centers in Northeast Florida just as demand increased.

The agency has received about $9 million in federal stimulus money for education, training and job placement in the region, and some of that money has been used to purchase, staff and equip four vans to serve as mobile employment centers. Those vans will be parking periodically at some of the coalition churches. …

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