Imagine getting laid off after 31 years of service with the same company. That’s exactly what happened to Eliza Jackson in 2009. At age 55, she was too young for retirement or social security. With her husband on disability and no prospects for her own full-time employment, Eliza wasn’t sure where to turn—that is, until an Internet search led her to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) through Catholic Charities.
Funded by a grant from the Department of Labor, SCSEP provides people ages 55 and older with the confidence and skills they need to re-enter today’s workforce through temporary, paid, on-the-job training in part-time community service positions. To be accepted into the program, participants must live at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. “At the time,” says Eliza, “I wasn’t just ‘low income.’ I was ‘no income!’” And while she admits that she didn’t think of herself as a senior, she applied for the program and was accepted.
Eliza’s first placement as an administrative assistant at the Women’s Bureau quickly put things in perspective. “Listening to the stories of our clients made me realize how fortunate I really was,” she says. Eliza also job trained at United Way before a third placement landed her in a training position at Catholic Charities. Soon, she was completing intake assessments and conducting job searches for clients. “I have learned so much through all my training opportunities,” she says. In the process, she discovered she enjoys working in a position that helps people in real and tangible ways. So when a part-time position came available in the Resource and Referral department at Catholic Charities, Eliza gladly took it.
Today, she works four days a week at Catholic Charities, three as a case manager for SCSEP and one in Resource and Referral. And while she admits that life has been challenging, Eliza feels fortunate not just to be employed, but to have discovered new skills and passions in the process. “You never know what life can bring. One day, you can have a job. The next day, you might not. Thank God for Catholic Charities!”