After nine years in the healthcare field, Gerrine Blackmon suddenly found herself jobless with three children to care for. Her journey back to employment is a story about perseverance and overcoming obstacles; it’s also a testament to the way Charlotte agencies, working in partnership, are putting lives back together.
Upon losing her job, Blackmon’s first stop was the N.C. Division of Workforce Solutions, where she filed an Unemployment Insurance claim. When that claim was exhausted and she still hadn’t found a job, Blackmon was approved for the Work First Family Assistance program through the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services and was referred to life-skills classes at ResCare Workforce Services.
“At the ResCare program, they helped me get my resume together and taught me things like how to look for work and job-interviewing skills,” she says.
Once she had the skills she needed to target, apply for and land a job, Blackmon started her search. It was during this time she attended a Work First Job Fair hosted by Grace-Mar Services Inc., where she met Debra Dixon, community partnerships manager at Charlotte Works.
“I interviewed with Ms. Dixon for an internship under her direction at Charlotte Works,” Blackmon recalls.” A week later she told me I had the job.”
While at Charlotte Works, she was exposed to the particulars of working for a community-service agency and the specific talents that entails.
“The most important things I learned at Charlotte Works were organizational skills and how to perfect things,” Blackmon says. “I would make lots of little errors and I learned to pay attention to detail.”
It also reinforced her desire to work in a field where she could help people, specifically those with mental health issues.
As the Work First program required, Blackmon worked 25 hours a week at Charlotte Works and spent more than 10 hours each week actively looking for a job. She attended a workshop about the On-The-Job (OJT) Training Grants incentive, where she learned of an employer in that program that was also a Charlotte Works Share Network Access Point (SNAP) site partner.
“I learned about InnerVision Inc. through the SNAP site list and OJT,” Blackmon explains. “I applied for a job there and got asked to interview with the director. It took her three weeks to get back to me – although during that time I was calling her constantly. When she finally did offer me a job, she said my persistence was one of the things she liked about me.”
Once her OJT training was completed, InnerVision hired her for a permanent administrative support position.
“One of the most valuable things I learned through this whole experience, and one I share with other job-seekers, is to be determined,” says Blackmon. “You can’t just apply for jobs and then sit back and wait for one to come to you, you have to follow up.”
She also found the OJT Training Grants incentive to be very valuable. “I never knew about this program until I came to Charlotte Works. I tell everybody about it because it’s a great tool to have when you’re looking for work,” notes Blackmon.
Dixon commends Blackmon’s resilience. “It was a difficult journey for Gerrine. We had many discussions about her future plans. There were a few bumps along the way, but she never gave up,” Dixon says.
Blackmon’s new boss agrees. “When Gerrine applied for the full-time administrative support position at InnerVision, she faced many challenges including gaining relevant skills while managing stressful personal issues,” says Dr. Cheryl Nicholas, founder, CEO and director of InnerVision. “With the help of an OJT grant from Charlotte Works and her willingness to learn, she has developed into an employee that we are proud to call a member of the team.”
Throughout this entire process, Blackmon raised her children, ages nine, two and one, and endured homelessness. The family was sheltered by Safe Alliance until, almost two years after applying to Habitat for Humanity, she moved into her own brand new house in December 2014.
“Our own home,” Blackmon says with a smile. “That was my Christmas present to the kids.”