TEASER: Social Services DSS

(Courtesy Photograph)

A pilot program that provides employment training to food stamp recipients has helped 29 of them find new jobs and a better life since beginning last October.

County commissioners heard a presentation Tuesday morning on the Food and Nutrition Services Employment and Training Program. It is a joint effort of the county Department of Social Services (DSS), Sandhills Community College (SCC), NC Works Career Center and Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. It is one of 11 pilot programs in the state.

Maria Campbell, educational navigator at SCC, told the commissioners that the pilot program came about through a partnership between the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Community College System.

She said Moore County launched the voluntary program last Oct. 1.

Initially, 147 clients were referred — the majority thorough DSS food stamp case workers. Other agencies also make referrals.

“They want to make a change, but they do not know how to go about it,” Campbell said of those enrolling in the program. “So this has been very helpful to them.”

Campbell said 87 of them enrolled in the program. Of those, 40 enrolled in curriculum and continuing education classes at Sandhills, 77 took part in job search activities, 33 enrolled in pre-employment training and 12 signed up for a college or career readiness class, such as high school equivalency.

She shared several success stories with the commissioners.

Ransome Batson completed the drone pilot class and has spoken with a Realtor and a photographer who are both interested in his services. He is scheduling his national exam in a couple of weeks and has started saving to purchase a drone that will meet the requirements for those jobs.

“Maria Campbell provided me with a great opportunity to expand my education through this program,” he said. “I feel blessed to be part of this program and would recommend it to anyone wanting to further their enrichment of life.”

Pam Farmer also took pharmacy tech and her national certification is pending. Campbell said she has been an inspiration to other students pursuing their goals.

“This is an awesome program to attend so if anyone is having a doubt about going back to school, please check it out,” Farmer said.

Janesha Moore successfully completed her phlebotomy class and has enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant program. She shared that the program has helped her reach goals that she had given up on as a single parent.

Campbell said officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services conducted a monitoring visit in late June to see how the program was going and no problems were found.

“I’d like to compliment you on the work you and others have done to implement this and to see the results,” Board Chairman Frank Quis said. He asked Campbell what the main obstacles are for food stamp recipients.

Campbell said lack of transportation, child care and affordable housing are the major ones. She said transportation and childcare options are limited in the evenings when many of these certification program classes are held.

She added that sometimes participants get evicted and that about 15 percent of the clients are considered homeless.

Commissioner Catherine Graham, who also serves on the social services board, said it was great that Moore County was chosen for this pilot program.

Campbell responded that during the recent monitoring visit, they learned that other counties “are trying to jump in and get on board after seeing some of the successes that some of the pilot program have had.”

“We’re pleased that Moore County is standing out as an example to those other counties,” Graham said. “Kudos to Moore County DSS.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

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