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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
South Shore News

Ruskin shelter to use Verizon grant to help women find jobs


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RUSKIN – With the help of Verizon Wireless a local shelter will help abused and homeless women find meaningful careers.

The nonprofit Mary & Martha House in Ruskin plans to use a first-time $10,000 grant from the telecommunication giant’s charitable arm, the Verizon Foundation, to launch a program to prepare clients to enter the workforce.

The Employment Readiness program is something the shelter has dreamed of offering for years, said Mary & Martha House Executive Director Laurie Kepler.

“Mary & Martha House is so very grateful for the opportunity to partner with Verizon to develop this initiative for our clients,” she said.

“Finding jobs for abused and homeless women is critical to breaking the cycle of domestic abuse and poverty,” added Mary & Martha House marketing manager Jan Falcione. “It will allow them to be independent and establish stable homes so they don’t return to their abusers.”

Founded in 1982, Mary & Martha House provides emergency shelter for 150 homeless women and victims of domestic violence each year. In addition to supplying a temporary home for these women and their children, the shelter offers parenting support, computer literacy training and tutoring, nutrition classes and help with transitional housing.

The ability to provide a comprehensive employment readiness program is critical the shelter’s overall mission, Falcione said.

Currently, the shelter offers help with resumes and job interviews, and gives clients on-the-job experience at its two Ruskin thrift stores. Beyond those services, the shelter has depended on other community resources to help women find jobs.

With the Verizon Wireless grant, the Mary & Martha House will be able to launch a program that will include skills assessment; one-on-one counseling with a vocational specialist; and training in time management, communications, interviewing, financial planning, workplace etiquette and conflict resolution skills, Falcione said.

“The goal is to give our clients long-term stability,” she said. “Studies show that finding and keeping a job is difficult for women whose lives have been impacted by violence. They need a longer-term, comprehensive intervention program.”

Mariano Legaz, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless, said gaining employment is an important step for domestic violence survivors and their families.

“We are proud to support a program that empowers victims to regain economic independence,” he said.

A portion of the grant will be used to develop and fund a facilitator who will assess clients and help them come up with a personalized vocation plan. Clients then will use a bank of computers and an interactive CD to complete various training modules that will help them land a job.

“Some women in our shelter have been able to find a job right away,” said Falcione. “But we’ve found that others require more job readiness (training).”

Mary & Martha House depends on community donations, proceeds from its thrift stores and competitive grants to operate its shelter, Falcione said. It’s the only shelter for abused and homeless women in South Shore and draws clients from throughout the county.

For more information, call (813) 645-7874.

D’Ann Lawrence White is a freelance writer who can be reached at dann.white3@gmail.com.

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