The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Grand Rapids is helping Michelle Childs reclaim her life.
The mother of two is currently taking advantage of a job training program offered through the WRC and is hopeful that her hard work will pay off with full-time, meaningful employment.
That’s the goal behind everything the WRC does, said executive director Sharon Caldwell-Newton. She was speaking at the recently held Pillar Awards, which honor West Michigan employers dedicated to empowering women at work. This year’s honorees included Kent District Library, Hungerford Nichols, and UPS. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a sponsor of the event.
“Women account for approximately 50 percent of today’s labor market,” she said. “Employers that invest in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in their workplace see improved employee retention, productivity, and bottom-line results.”
Caldwell-Newton said the WRC targets services to low-income, single moms who are underemployed or unemployed. Each client has a customized plan to help them achieve personal goals.
For Childs, having her first child as a junior in college forced her to drop out. She eventually went back to school, earning her bachelors’ degree in communications from Aquinas College. Despite the degree, she was unable to fulfill her vision of becoming a reporter or writer as she found that most employers were looking for people with more experience than she had. Childs ended up taking a job in a call center making $7.25 per hour and working two to three jobs to make ends meet.
Domestic abuse further eroded her confidence and she turned to food. As her weight crept up to 300 pounds, Childs found it even harder to find employment in her chosen career field. At nearly 400 pounds, she was placed on disability.
A fighter, Childs eventually extracted herself from the abusive relationship and lost over 180 pounds after bariatric surgery. As her confidence rose, she started tutoring at Potters House and eventually became connected with the WRC. She said the staff, volunteers, and her fellow program participants have inspired her to stay on a positive life track and she’s immensely grateful for the “warm, friendly, and unbiased” treatment she’s received there. Childs shared her story at the Pillar Awards, receiving a standing ovation from the sold-out, capacity crowd.
“The Women’s Resource Center has helped improve my outlook on life,” she said.
Last year, the WRC helped almost 600 West Michigan women through career coaching, dress-for-success services and other programs, including one designed to help previously incarcerated women. Because of their mothers’ accessing services, 512 children were also positively affected.
Many of the women helped were making $15,000 or less per year and over half were on public assistance. The center was able to help 75 percent secure employment, with 75 percent of those women still employed after six months.
Learn more about the Women’s Resource Center here.
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Photo credit: Ignite New Zealand