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STEP connects seniors with jobs

Program seeks more area employees

By Scott Bellile

For seniors looking to get out into their community and try something new this year, various area employers could use their help.

Curative Connections Inc., a Green Bay-based nonprofit organization that serves seniors across 14 counties, seeks people ages 55 and older to work at nonprofits and government agencies throughout the New London and Waupaca areas.

Participants in the federally funded Seniors Training and Employment Program work for up to 20 hours per week. Employees are paid $7.25 an hour.

To qualify for STEP, participants must be unemployed and earn a family income of no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the country’s 55-and-over population is expected to reach 97.8 million by 2020.

“Employers need to adjust their thinking and tap the underutilized senior population for workers,” said Deb Buckley, project director for Curative Connections’ STEP. “At the same time, seniors should seek opportunities to upgrade their skills or at the very least demonstrate they are actively participating in their community.”

A senior who could be retired but instead chooses to work tends to be dependable and motivated, Buckley said.

“Working and serving their communities helps keep seniors young and feeling needed,” Buckley said. “They earn a wage, learn new skills and get current references to use when applying for unsubsidized employment. The maximum enrollment period with our program is four years lifetime so many seniors move on to other jobs.”

Participating agencies
Curative Connections’ host agencies in Waupaca County include:

• Mission of Hope House homeless resource shelter, New London.

• Goodwill, Waupaca.
• Foundations for Living, Waupaca.
• Waupaca County Nutrition Program senior meal sites in Waupaca, Weyauwega, Manawa, Iola, Clintonville, Marion and New London.

• Waupaca Senior Center.

• Sturm Memorial Library, Manawa.

Host agencies in Outagamie County include:

• Brewster Village, Appleton.

• Good Shepherd Nursing Home, Seymour.

• Fox Valley Literacy Council, Appleton.

• Goodwill, Appleton.

• St Vincent de Paul, Appleton.

• Appleton DMV.

STEP a ‘win’ for all involved
New London Mission of Hope House co-founder Lori Prahl said STEP allows seniors to try a new job in a safe environment.

“It’s a win for the person, it’s a win for the organization, it’s a win all the way around,” Prahl said.

After previously working in a STEP position at Sturm Memorial Library, Thomas Trull of Manawa transferred to Mission of Hope House’s The Bridge Thrift Store in December.

Trull was self-employed for 18 years selling solar-powered lighthouse garden statues. But after discontinuing the business, he sought work through STEP to ease himself back into a structured customer service setting.

While working the cash register last week, Trull said he enjoys his position at The Bridge because he meets new customers while helping community members in need.

Another STEP host agency that serves the needy is Foundations for Living. This nonprofit ministry in Waupaca provides services to people in transition or crisis, including the homeless, recently released inmates, adults aging out of foster care and people suffering from mental illness.

Foundations for Living’s STEP workers answer phones, clean, perform maintenance, sort items in the Clothing Closet and handle client intake.

Although STEP workers often use their position as a stepping-stone to a higher paying job elsewhere, they nonetheless are essential in keeping the resource center running, according to Foundations for Living Office Manager Jan Blohm.

“We had a gal that worked for us for a couple years,” Blohm said. “We were so comfortable [with her]. She did data entry for us and answered the phones and talked with clients. … But she got so confident that she went out and got this great job at the veterinary clinic and she’s loving it. … Her confidence level just shot up. So that’s what the goal is, but we really lost a great employee. But we benefit in those ways and they benefit as well, so it’s a win-win and we just love having them come.”

For more information about Curative Connections’ STEP or to apply for the program, call 920-593-3557.

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