Penny Paschall is one of multiple reasons the Heart of Texas Christian Women’s Job Corps exists.
Paschall last year left an abusive relationship in another town. She returned to Brownwood to live with a brother with few material belongings and no idea what to do next. Her brother, Robert Karnes, knew current Heart of Texas Christian Women’s Job Corps Director Casey Moore, and enrolled Paschall for the 2016 fall semester.
“I was 54 years old. I was scared and afraid. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Paschall said. “They changed my life. They reintroduced me to God. He took what I had and helped me get myself together.
“Now I have a job and a driver’s license and my self-esteem. They gave me some nice clothes to wear. Everything I have is because of those people at the Christian Women’s Job Corps.”
As part of her CWJC semester last fall, Paschall participated in a practice job interview with Triple T Grill in Brownwood. Based on the practice interview, she was offered a job and now works at Triple T.
“I’m living with my brother right now, but I’m saving money so I can have my own place,” Paschall said.
The Heart of Texas CWJC not only helps women escaping abusive relationships, it helps women seeking a starting point to eventually earn a GED, the high school equivalency credential. It helps women entering the workforce for the first time as well as moms with children and single moms. CWJC also helps women who have been out of the workforce for several years — even if they graduated from high school or college.
“Some are in their 60s and are newly widowed or divorced,” said Bettie Evans, co-founder of the Heart of Texas CWJC. “They may have been a stay-at-home mom having to re-enter the workforce. Or their husbands may have taken care of them and they haven’t worked in 20 years. All of a sudden, they’ve got to work to take care of themselves.”
The age of the participants ranges from 18 to 70, Moore said. The current semester includes women in their 20s and 30 as well as some in their 50s and 60s.
“Some are single moms with kids who are working for minimum wage, and they can’t support their babies on what they’re making,” Moore said. “Others have kids that have started to school and they’re looking to go back to work.
“We’re trying to help all of them get into something better.”
The seed for the Heart of Texas CWJC was planted 27 years ago in another state some 550 miles from Brownwood.
“I lived in New Mexico in 1990. I was retired and in my 50s, and I was taking a computer skills class at a local community college there in Las Cruces,” Evans said.
“I heard about all this grant money that was available, and I thought wouldn’t it be neat if we could get this money to people who needed it. I was thinking about people who had dropped out of high school and needed job training like computer skills.”
Evans ran into problems, though, trying to connect the grant dollars to the people who needed it.
She didn’t forget about the possibilities — even years later after moving to Brownwood. Evans met Angelia Bostick, who in 2002 was executive director of Good Samaritan Ministries in Brownwood. Evans found out about Christian Women’s Job Corps, which is a national organization with state headquarters and local sites.
Evans, Bostick and Liz Looby traveled to Dallas for CWJC training. After two years of planning and training local volunteers, the Heart of Texas CWJC began its first session in Brownwood on March 21, 2005, with eight participants.
CWJC offers a 12-week semester — once in the spring and once in the fall — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday. A free lunch and free preschool childcare are provided.
“There are no excuses why they can’t come if they really want to,” said Evans, who assists Moore in the daily operations at the Heart of Texas CWJC.
Moore said, “Everything is provided right down to the pens and pencils.”
A wide range of subjects is covered, including English and math for participants seeking a starting point to eventually earning a GED.
Job skills also are a key component of the semester, including computer knowledge and usage for six hours every week. Bookkeeping, resume writing and job interviewing skills also are included. Participants receive tips on dealing with co-workers, and they can even go on a practice job interview that sometimes leads to employment after their one semester at CWJC.
A room filled with women’s clothes and shoes is available for those who need a professional appearance for a job interview or a job after CWJC.
Life skills also are part of the CWJC program, including tips on money management, personality management, parenting, relationships and general etiquette. There’s also a Bible study that begins each day.
“This is God’s program,” Evans said. “From our beginning, He has furnished everything. Every time we have needed something, He has furnished it – whether it was a building or furniture.
“Our future is all up to Him. We’ll keep going as long as He does.”
Moore said she felt drawn to join the Heart of Texas CWJC last year.
“I was a ministry assistant at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church and loved my job there,” she said. “One day Bettie called wanting to place an ad for their director opening in our church bulletin.
“I didn’t know what CWJC was at the time. I realized how they helped people in a Christian environment, and that was a desire I had. I felt drawn to the way they helped people and what they provide.”
CWJC is a national nonprofit organization that began from meetings held by the Women’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Heart of Texas CWJC is supported and funded by local churches of all denominations, local donations and local volunteers. It also receives grant money because it offers childcare services.
Volunteers give an estimated 900 hours per year for everything from instructors and speakers to mentors to childcare to those who provide lunches.
A future goal is to someday have a Heart of Texas Christian Men’s Job Corps. The first such site opened in 2004 in San Angelo.