Labor Day always reminds me of how important it is to a person’s well-being to have a job–not just for the money but for the dignity it gives to their life. So many times here at Wayne Township we see someone who has lost their job, and when they come to us they not only need financial assistance but a friend to help them through a dark and scary time.

Recently a former client shared her story with me about a time in her life when she needed just such a friend. Doranna lost her job during the last economic downturn. Her bills got behind, and soon she was unable to pay her rent. She didn’t want to ask her mother or her children for help; she didn’t know what to do. Eventually she ran out of food, and she remembers the night she drank a glass of ice water, and went to bed hungry. She prayed for help as she went to sleep and remembers waking the next day “with Township in my head.”

Doranna came to our office to request assistance. We looked over her paperwork and made her an appointment with an investigator, but before she left that day she also got food and paper products from our pantry.

When she returned for her appointment we saw that she was eligible for help with her rent. “Township didn’t pay all my rent, but I went to my landlord and told them I couldn’t pay it but that I was getting assistance. They accepted the township’s payment and said they would forgive the rest ‘til I was back on my feet.”

Now that she had gotten assistance Doranna needed to come back to do Workfare—that’s the program where clients pay back the assistance they’ve received by doing work, job searches and attending classes.

“At first I wasn’t smiling,” she said, “but I was going through something.”

Doranna helped out with clients going to the Farm Wagon that comes to our parking lot on Monday mornings for her workfare obligation, and she did other jobs around the building. She also worked at another non-profit agency in town, and she attended our weekly classes.

“I got used to being here on Wednesdays and I learned a lot, about nutrition and health and job searching. I got workfare credit for finishing my GED, too.”

While in the township program Doranna got help signing up for other services she needed like food stamps and a more affordable apartment through Fort Wayne Housing Authority. She requested clothes to attend church, and from our Clothing Emporium she got outfits for interviews.” She did the required job search and accepted whatever she could get.

“First I got a job ringing a bell for the Salvation Army,” a good experience until one day a passerby began taunting her about how she got her job. “He was calling me names,” she said, “I didn’t understand why he was doing this. I was just ringing a bell.” She wanted to speak out, but that was against the rules of the job, so “he didn’t know it but while he was reading me out, I was just looking in his eyes and praying inside my head.”

She had no money for Christmas, but she came to the Township’s Holiday celebration at the Roller Dome South. After waiting an hour and a half to get in, her grandson won the first bike we gave away.

Doranna found a job making minimum wage cooking at a nursing home. Because her shift started at 4:30 am, before city buses started running, she had to walk to work and wherever else she had to go. But with this job she could save some money and eventually she got herself a car. With that she could get to work and keep looking for higher paying jobs.

She finally got that job at Lutheran Life Villages making $3.00 more an hour and working a full 40 hours a week.
“Sometimes I’m talking to people who are in trouble like I was, and I say ‘why don’t you go to the township?’ They’ll say, ‘They get too much into your business’ or ‘I don’t have time to do all the things they want me to do.’ But I say, ‘If your mind is set with them and you work together with them, they can save your life.‘”

This year the Wayne Township Trustee Office will be back with our booth at the Labor Day Picnic in Headwaters Park. I will be there, thinking of Doranna and our other clients, and feeling good that my job lets me help people keep the dignity of work in their lives.

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Richard A. Stevenson - Wayne Township Trustee

Wayne Township Trustee Rick Stevenson was elected Trustee in November of 2006 and took office in January of 2007. He is very passionate about helping those in need and considers it a privilege to be in a position to be able to help. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer