New skills for a better job
Losing a job can be a frightening, confusing experience.
But MEND’s classes, taught by volunteer teachers, can provide out-of-work adults with skills to help qualify them for good jobs, giving them a positive new direction.
David Kitchen, 55, found himself out of work when the company he worked for abruptly went out of business last year. “I had no idea what to do,” says the Canyon Country resident. When he looked for work, he was discouraged to see that many job listings required computer skills. “I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on,” he says with a laugh.
Then he heard about MEND’s computer classes and signed up for a beginner’s class taught by volunteer teacher Abraham Yazdi — and was amazed to find that he could actually understand the material.
“He taught me so much,” says David. “Taking that class was the best thing I could ever have done. I’m still using things I learned in that class. Abraham was so dedicated to teaching his students. He even came in on Christmas break to teach us.”
David was so inspired that he quickly advanced to complicated computer programs that many businesses use, such as Access, a data base management program, and Excel, which helps organize data.
In order to keep learning, David signed up for other computer classes offered in the Valley, but he quickly realized that MEND’s computer lab was more conducive to learning and getting the practice he needs. And he says, the individual attention he received from Abraham Yazdi was invaluable.
MEND’s computer lab is available to students who need to complete class homework, and volunteers and staff are on hand to offer guidance. “If you don’t have a computer, you can go there and work without interruption,” David says. “And if you get stuck, volunteers or Rubi Ochoa (MEND’s Computer Lab Coordinator) will help you — it’s the perfect study environment.”
David’s confidence has grown, and he looks forward to a reinvigorated job hunt. “Being able to do the hard stuff, I think it might give me an edge,” he says.
By Volunteer Nicole Gregory
Independent Woman – Aranza Murillo
Aranza Murillo is happy to consider potential new career opportunities thanks to MEND’s Job Training Program. Working with Yolanda Anguiano, MEND’s Job Training Coordinator, Aranza has just finished this popular program as a job trainee. Crediting Yolanda’s coaching, mentoring, and patience, Aranza was able to successfully complete the eight-month program on time. She says she’ll miss Yolanda and all the special people who helped her along the way, including those in the garden department at MEND where Aranza first volunteered.
Born in Sylmar and now living in Panorama City, Aranza came to MEND through the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program which provides employment-related services that ultimately leads to self-sufficiency and independence. “Independence is very important to me. I am now better off. I am more mature and job ready,” she says.
At home, she is busy as the single mom of 3-year-old Melanie, the light of Aranza’s life.
“When Melanie is enrolled in kindergarten, I want to return to school for more training,”
she says. For now, she is grateful for the experience in MEND’s Job Training Program
that has allowed her to grow. Aranza considers herself lucky not to have needed MEND’s other services to date. She says, “Donate to MEND because others should know about this place. MEND gives to the people who really need it. MEND has been there for them.”
Aranza’s immediate plans include updating her résumé with her new skills and applying for jobs in several areas that interest her. She now has enhanced computer skills in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, as well as experience as a receptionist, administrative assistant, and special events coordinator. She may even, in fact, have to think about which of these career paths she prefers to follow next.
By Volunteer Susan Groveman
Photo Caption: Aranza Murillo (right) and MEND Work Readiness VISTA Kristie Luna (left)
The path to self-reliance
A young mother with a child to support, Christina Arthur was having a tough time making ends meet. The economy may be improving but jobs are still hard to find. The Panorama City native came to MEND for help and was able to get food and clothes for her two year old daughter Michelle. She especially appreciated receiving fresh vegetables and the chance to eat healthy meals!
Participating in MEND’s job training program has made a big impact on her ability to be self-sufficient. Christina volunteered in the Clothing Center, cashiering and accepting donations, and in Client Intake, where she helped new clients access services. On-the-job training sharpened her computer, filing, data entry and Microsoft Office skills.
She found the program enriching and supportive. “I made a lot of friends,” Christina said. “If someone was having trouble, we would help each other out.” All of it, she says, was good experience and helped her land a customer service position at Walmart. She’s not alone. Since the program’s inception in July 2013, 173 trainees have found employment.
May 24 was Christina’s first day on the job. Since she lives with her mother, she is lucky to have someone she trusts to watch Michelle during her shifts. Although newly employed, Christina is confident and already making plans for the future: her goal is to be promoted to supervisor.
“I definitely recommend on-the-job training at MEND,” she says. “The people are friendly. I enjoyed working there and would like to go back and volunteer, on my own time.”
By Volunteer Erin Fink
Opportunity of a Lifetime
“I love playing the flute. It’s my favorite instrument” says eight year old Ingrid Torres. She is among 70 kids who have taken advantage of MEND’s Summer Youth Program. Two years ago, Ingrid’s grandmother and current legal guardian, Audelia Hernandez, enrolled her in the Youth Services Program after learning about its services. During the regular school year, Ingrid receives homework help, one-on-one tutoring, and participates in enrichment activities offered through the program.
“Education is really important. That is why I bring Ingrid here” says Audelia. Since the summer program began, from Wednesday through Friday, Audelia sits patiently in the lobby for four hours while Ingrid attends art, music, cooking and self-defense classes.
“It is good to keep children occupied – especially during the summer. If MEND did not have these summer classes, Ingrid would have been playing video games all day at home. That is no way for a child to learn.”
For Ingrid, one of the highlights of her summer is the friendship she has developed with her music teacher, Amber. “Amber lets me take the flute home to practice. She is really cool.” Ingrid looks forward to getting better at playing the instrument and would like to keep practicing even after the summer classes are over.
Audelia is grateful to MEND for giving her grandchild the opportunity to learn the arts. “When the kids learn here, the hope is that they pay it forward when they get older. Kids are really our future.”
Photo: Ingrid Torres and grandmother, Audelia
MEND’s dental plan is client’s real-life tooth fairy
Retired engineer Ronald Scher knows that MEND’s health and dental plans have teeth. In fact, thanks to the group’s free dental program, so does he. “When I arrived at MEND I needed to extract the last dozen of my teeth,” says the 70 year old Pacomia native. “I needed the work and [had] no dental coverage.”
Scher’s family contacted MEND about his situation. At the time, he says, he was in the process of “full mouth extraction” and had no where to turn. MEND referred him to the county for oral surgery, and then he returned to MEND. MEND’s dental volunteers were able to fit him with dentures, and now he has a smile he can be proud of. “These teeth are beautiful,” he says.
A healthy set of teeth or dentures go beyond appearance. They are an important part of overall health. The best part, says Scher, MEND was there when he needed them most. “They are a lifesaver,” he says. “There is not other way to say [it]. MEND is a true blessing.”
By Volunteer Bill Kelley