EAST CHICAGO | Sherrette Pearson cared for developmentally disabled patients for more than a decade, but didn't have the proper certification to continue to work as a nursing assistant when she came to Northwest Indiana to be closer to family.
She's instead been working at restaurants, and walked eight miles every day for a month to get to her job at a McDonald's in Gary before she could line up transportation. Pearson has been hoping to return to the health care field, and has turned to the Holistic Community Coalition in East Chicago for help getting the training she needs.
The Holistic Community Coalition touted its job training program and its success in getting recent graduates hired by area employers at a community fair Friday. The nonprofit group introduced residents to resources, such as educational opportunities at Ivy Tech, and dedicated its newly renovated computer lab.
UPS donated $10,000 for upgrades, including 12 new computers that job seekers can use to craft resumes or submit online applications at the coalition's office at 3724 Main St. Gregg Glotzbach, UPS's local grants and sponsorship coordinator, said his company was impressed with the nonprofit's focus on accountability.
"They help people help themselves," he said. "There's a difference between just giving somebody something and helping somebody to earn and acquire something themselves, because that sticks."
Pastor Darnell Johnson, chief executive officer of the coalition, said the job training program placed more than 150 East Chicago residents in jobs last year. One of those residents was Basia Rei, who completed the nursing assistant certification and now works in a nursing home in Crown Point.
She's looking to further her education, and complete either a nurse aide or a phlebotomy technician examination in the hope of working in a hospital someday.
"East Chicagoans have this desire to work," said Russell Taylor, executive director of the Foundations of East Chicago, a citizen-run foundation that provides the funding for the job training program. "(The coalition) is here to pre-screen and help people who want to work find their job."
Easa Hamed needed a job after his longtime employee, Hostess, dissolved in bankruptcy. Hamed had worked there for seven years as a sales rep and didn't know what he would do next, until he saw a billboard promoting the job training program.
Hamed recently completed the coalition's commercial driver's license program, and earned a class B license that will allow him to drive a garbage or dump truck. He's been applying for jobs, and is more optimistic about his future.
"It was a lot of stress," he said. "But this is a great program, and it's given me a new start."