The Heart of Texas Christian Women's Job Corps is a non-denominational organization of "women helping women" transition into the unfamiliar world of work outside the home, yet it is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Some have never done so, while others have been out of the workforce for awhile and are unaccustomed to the latest methods and technologies. Twice each year, in the spring and fall, CWJC holds a 12 week program, with an extensive and informative curriculum.
In 1994, plans for the creation of a program to assist impoverished women and children were begun. The pilot program was initiated two years later. Today, CWJC has over 155 sites throughout the U.S. In 2002, Angelia Bostick and Bettie Evans presented the idea of organizing a chapter in Brownwood, to several friends and colleagues. In April of the next year, Bostick and Evans were joined by Liz Looby and Louise Kneese, who was already a national trainer for CWJC. The first class began March 21, 2005.
In November, the Heart of Texas Christian Women's Job Corps graduated its 18th class. 11 women completed the program, ranging in age from 19 to 68. In addition to that class being the largest in the history of the local organization, 2013 held another milestone. In February, the program moved into its own facility, at 2410 Coggin Ave. The land and building were purchased and renovated by local resident and longtime supporter of CWJC, Mette Lundsgaard. During the preparation and planning phase, they officed at Good Samaritan Ministries and in 2004 the group moved to the Family Services Center. The new facility allowed for customization to better accommodate the needs and purpose of the organization. The lobby is furnished and decorated with the comfortable feel of a home, including an inviting fireplace. There is a fully functioning kitchen used to give working women instruction and tips for preparing meals, at the end of the work day. Specifically, the use of crock pots to slow cook meals is a focus, with Crock Pot Day devoted to cooking for the entire group, including the staff and mentors. A local supporter of CWJC has donated new crock pots to each of the graduating students, for the last three classes.
The program is completely free to the students. In addition to providing all instructional materials and supplies, CWJC provides daycare for the students' pre-school children, courtesy of the Beadel Foundation, and volunteers and local restaurants provide meals for each day of class. The teachers and mentors donate their time, as well. Recent grad, Patty Piper, said, "The girls come in with nothing and they leave with a lot." The new facility also has space dedicated to a large inventory of donated ladies' work attire, from which the students can choose clothing appropriate for job interviews and office environments. Boland added, "We always take donations for our World of Work clothing room and when we are overrun with clothes, we invite women outside of the program to come in."
All Site Coordinators and mentors are women, so as to provide a comfortable atmosphere for learning. Site Coordinator Patricia Boland said, "Each student is paired with a mentor, to encourage and advise them." Piper said, "When we started, everyone was timid and shy. It was good to see everyone blossom, raise their heads, and open up to one another, as the classes progressed." Another recent grad, Jamye Poe, said, "To me, the fellowship was an important thing. We didn't really talk to each other for about two weeks, then we opened up. We were all strangers, but we got to know each other and then we shared things about our lives, with each other, that stayed right here."
The last semester consisted of 26 teachers, instructing students in math, writing/English skills, budgeting, cooking, stress/anger management, etiquette, and decision making. Utilizing 12 computers, purchased through grants from the Woodruff Foundation, students learn keyboarding, basic functionality, and business software. Instructors aid students in compiling proper resumes, which are maintained on the facility's PCs. After graduation, students are able to return to the facility to update and/or print their resumes. Additionally, outside social services agencies conduct informational sessions on serves available to working women.
To prepare students for job searches, a human resources professional conducts mock interviews and instructs them on proper presentation. Boland said, "We have had one student hired directly from the mock interview and others have been called back, later." Poe added, "The mock interviews were very helpful." Boland said, "80 percent of the spring class is now working."
At the completion of the program, students are honored with a graduation ceremony. The last was held at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, which Piper said was "awesome!"
The capstone course is a Bible study called "Me, Myself, and Lies", designed by Jennifer Rothschild. Boland said, "Our program is not just about jobs. Our motto is 'caring, guiding, and equipping women in a Christian environment'." To that end, the Prayer Saturation Team from Union Presbyterian Church visits the students during the class day, once each month.
While Christina Women's Job Corps receives generous donations and grant funding, they do hold two fundraisers, each year. The next scheduled event is a Bunko tournament, to be held at 6 p.m., January 23, at the Central United Methodist Church located at 1501 2nd St. Each spring, the organization holds a volleyball tournament, hosted by the Brownwood Middle School.
CWJC has plans to expand with a men's program, with classes to be held in the evening. In January, special classes will include instruction in computers, conversational Spanish, and Intro to Quickbooks. Women interested in attending the program may stop by the office, at 2410 Coggin, during business hours or pick up an application outside the front door, at any time. CWJC may be contacted at (325)643-1788 or email@example.com. Additional information is available at www.heartoftexaschristianwomensjobcorps.org.