story by Ryan Saylor
A program that began in June 2012 is already making an impact in the lives of women across northwest Arkansas and there is hope the program could expand to Fort Smith and other parts of Arkansas.
According to Rebecca Brockman, public relations and community engagement manager at Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, POWER (Providing Opportunities for Women through Education and Resources) was designed to help women who are living in poverty and are unemployed.
Brockman said the program began through a large donation from two organizations.
"We got a grant in June of last year from the Walmart Foundation and the LPGA," she said. "They combined and gave us a grant for $350,000."
Goodwill used the money to establish a program that Brockman said provided a "holistic" approach to helping women in poverty find and retain work.
"It's a job placement program, but much more," she said. "Women can come in and get career-placement assistance and we help them find resources in the community to help them."
Kim Daniell, Goodwill's regional career services manager in Fayetteville, said before assisting women in their search for employment, the POWER program gives them job readiness skills.
"Before we connect them, we really want to look at retaining the job, so there's a lot of preparation," she said.
Daniell said sometimes the job preparation was something as basic as providing computer training skills or finding women a place to bathe.
"If they can't shower, how can they keep a job?" she said.
While in the program, the women learn to navigate their way through the workforce and to take control of their non-work lives, as well.
"We connect the women with people who can address their needs," Daniell said. "We have an advanced needs assessment that covers mental health issues, practicing safe sexual practices, different issues that may affect them. We look at their physical, tangible needs."
The advanced needs assessment is then used to partner women with other groups across northwest Arkansas that can assist them with skills necessary to be successful outside of work, such as budgeting, healthy eating and how to manage taking care of a family while working full-time.
"We really try to help them in every step if they have a family or are single mothers," Brockman said. "We try to address every issue. They are getting support on a number of levels."
As of December 2012, Brockman said POWER had served 101 women and was on track to meet its goal of serving 350 women.
"Out of 101 individuals, there are almost 30 women in the program who are receiving recovery and re-entry assistance through TEO (Transitional Employment Opportunity) and ATR (Access to Recovery) programs," Brockman said in a statement. "Due to the POWER program, 42 people received needs-related services, such as financial, health, transportation, family services and housing. The program has successfully placed 25 clients into community jobs in four months."
The program is only available at Goodwill locations in Fayetteville and Springdale, though she said the organization would like to expand POWER to other locales, including Fort Smith.
"Due to the amount of the grant money, we focused just on northwest Arkansas," she said. "Of course, we are always applying for more grants, which would allow us to expand this program to other areas across the state. We are always looking for ways to expand our efforts across Arkansas."