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Working families find a new place to get back on track
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Officials get ready to cut the ribbon for the Center for Working Families at the United Way Service Center. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Effingham County has no shortage of people looking for work, as evidenced by the county’s 8 percent unemployment rate. Many others are struggling to make ends meet with a job that does not pay well or lacks health benefits.

The county’s unemployed and underemployed now have a new avenue to find a job or pursue a better one, with the opening of the Center for Working Families at the United Way’s Effingham Service Center in Rincon.

"Our Center for Working Families will help low-income families who have dreams of financial well-being, but do not have the access to the support services to help them achieve their aspirations," said United Way area director Bonnie Dixon.

The Effingham CWF is a partnership between United Way, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area, Savannah Technical College, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, Coastal Workforce Investment Board, area businesses and community volunteers. The partners celebrated the center’s official opening with a ribbon cutting Thursday.

The Center for Working Families is designed to provide career and financial services in one convenient location. Services include job training, GED preparation, career advisement and financial coaching.

However, the CWF is not a place for clients to visit just once for a quick fix to a temporary financial setback. Rather, Dixon said, the center will "build long-term, lasting relationships with these families."

"This is not a simple referral program for someone who is seeking assistance for a utility bill, rent or transportation just to help them make it through another month," Dixon said. "This program is only for those who truly desire to improve their financial well-being."

Each client will be assigned a CWF "life coach" who will design a plan of action that must be followed. The center will track the client’s progress, making any necessary adjustments to provide better service along the way.

"I pray this will be a place that, when people come in, they can feel that we’re partnering and working through the process together," said CWF program manager Destiny Bradshaw. "You’re in the ditch — and we’re not going to worry about whether you were pushed in or went in on your own. You just need help being pulled out."

Bradshaw has a "passion and affinity" for the program, since not long ago she was the one needing a helping hand. Bradshaw said "everything was great" when she and her husband moved here four years ago, but their lives changed drastically when her husband suffered an injury that prevented him from working.

"As with many people, life can sometimes take you in a spiral. We hadn’t navigated through the world of social services before, and it was difficult," she said.

Although providing short-term financial assistance is not the focus of the Center for Working Families, it is a possibility through the Effingham County HELP (Hope for Everyone Looking for Provisions) program. Through local donations, HELP provides families assistance with transportation, utilities, rent or mortgage payments, car payments and car insurance.

That is the first step to help clients who "can’t even think past ‘my lights are going to be turned off tomorrow,’" Bradshaw said. "We understand there are some times you can’t think about building your resume when you’re worried about, when you leave this office, what’s going to be waiting for you when you get back home."

HELP is a "give back" program, requiring clients who receive benefits to give back to the community by volunteering to any non-profit organization or attending health and financial wellness courses that benefit their families.

The Center for Working Families is located at 711 Zitterour Rd. in Rincon. For more information about the Effingham CWF, call 826-5300.