As the weather is warming up, we start looking forward to moving some of our work out of doors-like improving the landscaping and picking up debris that has accumulated there over the winter. We also start organizing our efforts for the coming Great American Cleanup when citizens in Fort Wayne and all across the country spend a Saturday sprucing up the public properties around their neighborhoods. While the Cleanup doesn’t happen until May we start organizing for it now—scouting out projects and getting commitments from staff, volunteers and from our Workfare clients. It’s just one of the projects where our clients can make an impact bettering our community.
I am always proud of the contributions made by our Workfare Department. Ever since 1847, able-bodied persons who received township assistance have been required to work in the community to give something back for the help they receive. In the early days recipients chopped firewood and worked the farms and gardens for other citizens who were unable to work or provide for themselves. Throughout the years Workfare has been a helping program and a win-win for all involved—needy citizens get help that they and their families need and giving back to the community helps them to maintain their dignity. That spirit still carries on here at the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office. All able recipients of assistance who are not already employed full-time must participate in the Workfare Program. Today’s clients provide a variety of services-for the townships, for non-profit agencies and for projects like the Great American Cleanup.
Clients who contribute their time and labor through the Workfare Program report feelings of accomplishment and well-being that they gain through their service. By performing work for the community, our clients gain an opportunity to improve their work habits and interpersonal skills. The agencies they work for get extra help at no cost to them, and the clients learn skills that can help them in their quest for paying work. Just this last week we had a client who has accepted a paying job with the Fort Wayne Parks Department where he had been working through our Workfare Program.
Each month our clients contribute over 3000 workfare hours to assist non-profits and government agencies and help at community events. The clients’ contributions to the non-profit agencies which serve our community help to make Fort Wayne a better place to live, and I, for one, greatly appreciate the commitment of our clients and of the community agencies involved in our Workfare program. But these contributions are not the only benefit of the program.
Mike DePew, who is the director of the Workfare here at Wayne Township, has been reaching out to other agencies to make his program even more beneficial to our clients. Not only can a client fulfill his obligation through working, he or she can also get workfare credit by taking classes at WorkOne in how to get and keep a paying job. Credit can also be earned by obtaining a high school diploma if that was something the client missed out on in younger days. And Brightpoint (the agency formerly known as CANI) has partnered with Blue Jacket (an agency that works to find employment for those with legal troubles in their background) to form the Career Academy, “a job-readiness training program that helps participants develop job skills and conduct successful job searches. Participants have access to job-placement services and a professional clothing bank” (from Brightpoint’s website). Our clients can earn workfare credit by attending any of these programs, thereby improving their chances at getting jobs and moving on from needing township assistance.
So as the weather gets better every day I am feeling optimistic that this season even more of our clients will find better times ahead through meaningful work and civic contributions. And, I look forward to the beautification I see every year as a result of the Great American Cleanup.
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