"I'm one of you." This is what I recently told a large orientation class of new Wayne Township Assistance clients. The reason I made that comment is that when I was in my 20's I lost my job and had to seek assistance.
I explained to the class that I had a good paying job with the City of Fort Wayne. I had a nice car and home. I was very proud and on top of the world. I never thought I would be out of a job. Then, the funding for my job was cut, and I found myself unemployed.
I lost my car, my home and my furniture. As part of my job with the City, I had taken persons to the unemployment office to help them get their unemployment. Now I had to go to the unemployment office for myself, and I was so embarrassed that I didn't want anyone to see me.
The reason I spoke to our clients about my own experiences was to show them that no matter how many problems they are facing now they can achieve success. I try to motivate our clients to improve their situation and move from assistance to independence. My talk to the Orientation Class is only part of what we do here at Wayne Township to help new clients understand the role of the Trustee's Office and to help them get back on their feet.
Orientation Class is conducted weekly and includes presentations by representatives of several Departments of our office. The speakers outline the role of their Departments including Employment, Workfare, Investigations and Payee. I conclude the class by encouraging clients to gain the self-confidence they need to move on with their lives. Once a client finishes the Orientation Class, he or she receives a Certificate of Completion, which is good for six months.
I told our clients that when I lost my job, everything started going badly for me. Sometimes when you're down is when you wake up to life. The best thing you can do to bring yourself up is to get an education. If you don't have a high school diploma, then you must get a GED. If you are a high school graduate, then consider going on to college.
You must have discipline to be successful, I told them. When I was speaking to the Orientation Class, my arm still was in a cast from breaking my wrist while playing basketball. So, I used myself as an example. I was a basketball player in high school and like to play basketball.
However, I should have had enough discipline to realize that I wasn't 16 anymore and must be careful if I play basketball. Instead, I was going all out running backward, lost my footing and fell. The result of my lack of discipline was a broken wrist from the fall.
All of us must learn to live within our income, I told the class. You might see me in the Goodwill Store buying clothes, and you can do that too. I have nothing against pets; but if you can't afford to feed yourself, you should not be getting a pet. For those in the class who smoke, I know it's hard to quit because I did it. However, cigarettes are expensive; and something you may have to give up if not for your health, but because you can't afford them.
I explained that I know those in the class don't want to be here at the Township asking for help. We are here, though, to help them get through the hard times. We want to help our clients get on the right track. I challenged the clients to keep striving for perfection. Do what our investigators tell you to do and always try to be the best you can be.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee