Congregations helping jobless members cope
September 2nd, 2009
By Connie D’Aura and Rick DelVecchio
Faith communities can organize to help unemployed members cope with issues ranging from grief and anger to finding job leads. Prayer and special donations for struggling families can go a long way toward hope and recovery.
Those were among the themes of a San Francisco Interfaith Council meeting Aug. 25 on “Navigating the Unemployment Crisis: Helping Congregations Help Their Members.” Held at St. Dominic Church in San Francisco, the event drew 50 people and featured presentations by representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim congregations.
During the meeting eight congregations pledged to start job help programs, adding to such ongoing efforts as the inter-parish Catholic Networking, which meets at St. Dominic three times a year, Edgewood Works at St. Matthias Parish in Redwood City and a support network of five parishes in San Mateo County.
The interfaith effort comes at a time when the job market in the Bay Area remains in deep recession even as economic productivity shows signs of life. In San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties, 90,800 people were unemployed as of July, out of a civilian labor force of 976,000. The contrast from the low point of joblessness during the last economic boom is stark: in October 2006, just 32,900 people were looking for work, and the labor force was smaller.
The Bay Area as a whole lost 8,700 jobs in July, the EDD said. The downturn is affecting all industries and income levels.
Abby Snay, executive director of Jewish Vocational Services, gave an overview of unemployment in the Bay Area and explained her organization’s role in helping people cope with job change. JVS offers job placement and skills training and expects to assist 7,500 people this year. Its services are available to anyone who needs help finding a job.
Snay moderated a panel that focused on ways that any congregation can help jobless members. Common themes:
• Offer help and recognize that a job loss involves grief, anger and despair, followed by hope. Hope comes sooner if a congregation’s pastoral staff offers first-person help.
• Make certain the job seeker is aware of all city resources and enrolls for benefits.
• Involve the whole congregation. Leaders are a natural resource for help with job leads and business trends. All members can pray for job seekers and make special donations for affected families.
• Be aware of individual needs. A workshop on how families or couples cope with unemployment may be warranted.
Participants said it is important that a congregation’s spiritual leader take the lead. Congregations need to hear from the pulpit that help is available and that job loss now is the norm and should not be seen as shameful.
Ways congregations can help, participants said, include providing how-to workshops, using e-mail to connect with job seekers, organizing small “Success Teams” who meet weekly and keep job seekers on track and providing child care and elder care to help members schedule job interviews.
Next steps for the interfaith effort on job help include offering a citywide workshop and a best-practices seminar on finding a job, and helping smaller and larger congregations combine forces.
In an independent effort, five parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s central San Mateo County deanery have formed an employment support group.
“The individual parishes have to step up and provide the first line for their community members,” said Bill Tauskey, a parishioner at St. Gregory in San Mateo. “There are things that make sense to do in a combined fashion.”
The network is planning a county-wide jobs board and other resources for what Tauskey sees as a growing crisis.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it yet,” he said. “I know people who are losing their jobs and struggling to keep their homes. The biggest issue is emotional but right behind that is the issue of, ‘How do I manage?’”
Editor’s note: Connie D’Aura participated on a panel at the interfaith meeting.
Bay Area faith community resources
Here is a partial list of job help resources in the Bay Area faith community:
Catholic Networking, a diocesan program, meets at St. Dominic Church three times per year. The next meeting is Sept. 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Saint Dominic Church. Contact Connie D’Aura at email@example.com.
Five parishes in San Mateo County – St. Gregory, St. Matthias, St. Luke, St. Bartholomew and Immaculate Heart of Mary – have formed an employment support network. The network will sponsor a one-day “Impact Lab” on Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Gregory, 2715 Hacienda St., San Mateo. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Bill Tauskey at (650) 340-9254.
Other resources include: San Francisco Interfaith Council, www.sf-interfaith.org; Jewish Vocational Services, www.jvs.org; Grace Cathedral’s Grace Works, www.ministriesofgrace.org/graceworks/; Menlo Park Presbyterian Careers Action Team, www.mppc.org/calendar/career-actions-ministry; Community Presbyterian Church, Danville, www.jobconnections.org/index.shtml; St. Matthias Edgewood Works at email@example.com; St. Isidore Networking Group (SING), Danville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From September 4, 2009 issue of Catholic San Francisco.