Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Go! Network Calls It Quits; Networking Group for Jobless Here Ran for Years Past Original Plan

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Go! Network Calls It Quits; Networking Group for Jobless Here Ran for Years Past Original Plan

Article excerpt

An era ended Tuesday morning in a conference room at St. Patrick Center in downtown St. Louis.

It was the final meeting of the Go! Network, the grass-roots job- skills and networking group founded in the depths of the Great Recession to help laid-off workers get back on their feet. The program was supposed to last only a few weeks, but it just kept going and going, not unlike the jobs crisis it was intended to help ease.

"We were supposed to run for six or eight weeks at the start. We went about 230 extra weeks," said executive director Roni Chambers. "And we helped 4,500 people."

Funding for the nonprofit organization was always touch-and-go the Go! Network announced multiple shutdowns over the years before last-minute donations kept it afloat and finally Chambers and the group's board decided to close it down.

But not before one last Tuesday morning meeting.

About 100 people showed up on the fifth floor of the St. Patrick Center, which launched the Go! Network in 2009 and has donated space to it ever since, for the networking hour. There was coffee and Bundt cake. There were name tags. And there were lots of people chatting.

The sense of community at these sessions really matters, said Chuck Fisher, who was a Go! Network regular for a few months earlier this year before he landed a new job at Edward Jones. Unemployment can be isolating, he said, and it can be especially hard on people in their 40s and 50s who aren't sure what might come next. Just knowing you're not alone can help a lot.

"When you lose your job, you kind of think everything's going to hell," he said. "But then you meet people, and people really want to help, whether they're working or not working. And you start to realize how good you've got it."

So even though Fisher is working again, he made time to come downtown from Ellisville for the last meeting, to show his appreciation. He was hardly the only one. When everyone had filed into the auditorium, and they asked who'd volunteered their help to the Go! …

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