Life has a way of sucking you in, whirling you around, and spitting you out with little compunction.Ask Debra Rogers.
Early one morning, she woke to the realization of a life gone sideways: prostitution, drug use, countless arrests.
“I was at the bottom,” Rogers recalls.
She tried to get out only to be yanked back in. Start, stop, start, stop.
She felt isolated, hopeless, powerless.
That’s when she met Glen Herring, who at the time was a deacon in charge of the Benevolence Ministry at Wood Chapel.
He told her about a non-profit organization that helps women get back on their feet by providing job skills, social skills, and building – or rather, rebuilding – their self-worth, one encouraging word, one learned skill at a time.
“We teach women to fish” is how Julie Forrester put it.
Forrester took over as director of the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Greater Arlington (CWJC) in 2009. The organization is one of those hidden gems, quietly fulfilling its aim of finding independence and acceptance for women in the marketplace.
Of course, that comes from working from the inside out.
This explains the fish reference straight out of the Bible, although it has been re-articulated as secular.
Give a man a fish, you have fed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime.
Since its inception in 2005, CWJC has “graduated” 671 women through a 10-week, tuition-free education program with two streams: job skills training and personal development.
Participants learn Microsoft Office Quick Books, resume writing, and job interviewing skills in job skills training. A CWJC-run boutique provides business clothing for participants.
“That area of our training focuses on preparing women for the job market, whether they are entering for the first time or re-entering,” Forrester says. “Our personal development classes focus more on confidence, communication styles, money management, and more personal-related items. And as a Christian organization, we have Bible study.”
CWJC offers day and evening classes, which can be a bit much for those already working full-time.
Most women are middle- to late-age, and some have had well-paying jobs and college educations.
Yet “life has a way of changing,” Forrester says. “So here they are, in their fifties and sixties. How in the world are they going to compete with the youngsters out there? The positive is that people at that age have a great work ethic. They need a little boost in confidence and building relationships and skills.
“Sometimes that can be difficult because you have that old life pulling you outside these walls. Then you go back into the environment that got you in trouble in the first place. If you are not strong, that would be a difficult situation. Our role is to encourage getting out of the life cycle permanently.”
Rogers is a CWJC success story. She has a day job and then heads off to evening classes. She wants to be an administrative assistant – and a CWJC mentor.
CWJC offers a mentoring program with Bible study. The Bible study curriculum is presented in a way that focuses on God’s love for each woman, no matter their background or life circumstances.
“Julie hired me to be the office assistant there, and I got a chance to talk to the women joining the program,” Rogers says. “I was the one who gave them the test and encouraged them. I was there in the building. My door was always open if they had any questions.”
Rogers finally found herself in a place of empowerment while in a position to empower others.
“That’s what is so great about CWJC,” she says. “We, as women, have such self-doubt. They want to be there to help, to get you through it and on your way. That’s what they did for me. What a blessing.”