Goodwill Career Center offers services in Danielson

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Tue., Jan. 3, 2012
Job coach Iris Carreras in the Goodwill office on Main Street in Danielson. Photos by D. Coffey.
Job coach Iris Carreras in the Goodwill office on Main Street in Danielson. Photos by D. Coffey.

Goodwill Career Center coach Iris Carreras operates out of the organization's outpost on Main Street in Danielson. The small office with six computer stations, printer, fax machine, telephone and copier is Goodwill's attempt to drop anchor in the northeastern corner of the state. For Carreras, it has meant getting out into the community to meet with business leaders so that she can help as many people as possible. The past seven months haven't been easy ones. With a tough economy and a lean job market, her clients are having a tough time finding decent jobs that offer sufficient hours and pay.

Unemployment figures from the Connecticut Department of Labor show a slow, but steady decline since July. According to Connecticut Works Director Rhonda Matthews, unemployment went from 10.2 percent in July to 9.0 percent in November. Those figures don't account for the types of jobs available. And Carreras is finding out what many in the area already know: the jobs that are easily available are primarily retail or restaurant jobs offering low wages and 10 to 15 hours a week.

“Fifteen hours a week isn't going to do it,” she said. “It's going to help, but it isn't going to help like a full-time job would.” Many people have hit the wall, she said.

The rural character of the Quiet Corner presents another particularly daunting challenge: transportation. The Northeastern Connecticut Transit District offers limited fixed routes between grocery stores, industrial parks, apartments and medical offices from Thompson to Brooklyn. Rides are only $1, but the routes and the hours of operation are limited.

“That's one of the main problems,” Carreras said. Goodwill is able to procure 60-day transportation vouchers for its clients. The vouchers are good for free transportation to and from work for a period of 60 days. In that time, clients are expected to find another way to get back and forth to work. Whether it means saving money for a vehicle or finding someone to carpool with, at least transportation is secure for 60 days. But 60 days is 60 days.

“It's hard,” Carreras said. “Sixty days is not enough. If there was a way to change that, it would be good. If there is another way we can work together and be more flexible, it would help our clients.”

The Connecticut Works office on Westcott Road isn't far from the Goodwill Career Center. It, too, offers access to computers, fax machines, telephones and a library of job search information. The difference is that Connecticut Works puts a limit on computer use if there are people waiting to use them.

Clients can use the Goodwill phone to make and receive calls, Carreras said. “We will save messages for them. We don't have time limits. We try to help people get back on their feet as much as we can, as soon as we can,” she said.

The Goodwill Center offers one-on-one sessions on writing resumes and cover letters. Clients can sign up for computer and GED classes, workshops on interviewing and workplace success, and they can meet individually with Carreras on a variety of job-search-related issues.

“We can offer people help on dressing for an interview, speaking to an interviewer and making eye contact with an employer,” she said. “We give them skills that will last them forever.”

Plans are in the works to establish a Goodwill retail store in the area. “We know Goodwill is known for their retail stores,” said Carreras. “We are trying to have retail stores attached to a career center. That way people can come in, use our services and go to the store,” she said.

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