Diocese launches program to help the unemployed
CUMBERLAND – The diocese has launched a new program to help unemployed and underemployed Rhode Islanders sharpen their interviewing skills, network with other seeking employment and develop new strategies to find employment.
The Catholic Unemployed Networking Group held its first meeting on June 28 at St. Joseph Church, with 20 job seekers in attendance. A similar group is planned for a parish on Aquidneck Island.
Like many of the individuals who attended the session, Paul Zangari — who has years of experience as a broadcaster on both local radio and television — is busy following job leads, sending out resumes and researching employment opportunities throughout the region.
Zangari, a parishioner of St. Jude Church, Lincoln, was part of a group of unemployed individuals who recently met with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin to discuss the affects of unemployment that resulted from the current economic recession. As a result, the bishop asked the diocesan Office of Catholic Charity and Social Ministry to organize the networking series for Rhode Islanders struggling to find employment.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, the state’s jobless rate for May — the most recent month for which statistics are available — was 11 percent.
“It’s frustrating not to be able to contribute,” admitted Zangari. He’s grateful that his wife is gainfully employed and can provide health insurance for his family, which includes their 10 year-old son.
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At age 62, Zangari has no plans to stop working. He uses the Internet daily to search for employment opportunities from Boston to Westerly, and while he has sent out many resumes, few submissions have resulted in an interview. He also relies on job leads supplied by friends who are still actively employed in the media.
“If I can re-establish myself in the type of work that I have done, I don’t think I’d ever want to retire,” Zangari said. “This is not the situation I expected to be in.”
Andy Posner, co-founder and executive director of The Capital Good Fund, based in Providence, told the job seekers to utilize community resources in their employment search. The state Dept. of Labor and Training, for example, offers a variety of programs, including short-term training through the federal Workforce Investment Act.
According to Posner, it’s crucial for unemployed or underemployed individuals to maintain their financial stability by creating a budget, building credit and managing debt. The Capital Good Fund, which is partially funded by a grant from the local Catholic Campaign for Human Development, provided free one-on-one financial coaching last year to 600 qualified applicants struggling with monetary issues.
Posner told the workshop participants that one solution to joblessness is to become self-employed.
“At a time when there aren’t jobs, it’s attractive to create a start-up small business,” Poser continued, adding that The Capital Good Fund provides microloans to qualified entrepreneurs, and smaller loans to job seekers to purchase a computer, learn a new skill, or purchase a used car if the applicant lacks transportation to get to a job site.
The nonprofit also provides business coaching that includes developing a business plan, marketing, and financial planning for start-ups.
During his presentation, Poser emphasized the need for the unemployed to care for their physical and mental health. He encouraged people without medical insurance to visit neighborhood health centers, whose fees are often based on income, or to become members of HealthAccessRI, a group of physicians and medical practices throughout the state that charge a monthly subscription fee, much like a health club.
For those suffering from mental health issue or addictions, Poser suggested they receive counseling or join a support group.
“Joblessness has a tremendous impact on one’s mental health,” Posner told the group. “It’s not uncommon for many of our clients to suffer anxiety and depression.”
Some ways to alleviate tension and stress when unemployed, Posner continued, are to volunteer, network and exercise outdoors – and to use the time to learn a new skill that will enhance an applicant’s marketability in the workplace.
Susan Stolar, a member of Blessed John Paul II Parish, Pawtucket, recently returned to Rhode Island from Arizona, where she worked as an independent communications, marketing and public relations consultant before the economic downturn.
“People stopped paying and they stopped calling,” said Stolar, adding that like Zangari, she searches the Internet and tries to network with individuals who might supply job leads.
“It’s reaffirming to turn to your faith to persevere and get through the mounting struggles,” she continued, adding that people who lose their jobs often are overcome with blame, self-doubt and a deep sense of loss.
“It’s tougher than ever but you have to maintain a positive attitude and persevere,” Stolar said.
James Jahnz, coordinator of the diocesan networking program, as well as the coordinator of Project Hope in Pawtucket, noted that there is a “real need for networking, skill building and training” so that the unemployed can return to the workforce and low wage earners can obtain better jobs.
“The diocese has the ability to facilitate those needs and the results of which will be applicants better prepared for jobs.”
Jahnz agreed with Posner that being handed a pink slip is a devastating experience.
For more information about the Catholic Unemployed Networking Group, or to obtain a schedule of future meetings, call 421-7833, ext. 107.