Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Lunch and Learns' help unemployed

Being out of work can wear on the psyche.

The Rev. Elizabeth Hyland knows that. In April 2008, she was laid off as chaplain at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresvile, and hasn't worked since.

So she started volunteering for the Charlotte Presbytery's community disaster relief resource team.

Hyland classifies the tens of thousands laid off in Charlotte as economic and human disasters. In an effort to help, she's been organizing "Lunch and Learn for the Unemployed," a series of free lunches for those out of work or underemployed to learn coping skills -- and to keep a grip on hope.

The next lunch is Wednesday at Kannapolis's First Presbyterian Church, 210 Vance St., from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch -- with door prizes -- and the program of three speakers is free, paid by the Presbytery.

The two previous "Lunch and Learns" were well-attended. The gathered did learn about coping and holding onto hope. But perhaps the best lesson: The realization that they're not alone.

"Some people had been out of work so long they were depressed, and didn't think anything could help," Hyland said. "But many said they left with a renewed sense of hope and encouragement -- not feeling quite so alone."

Some of the other speakers, too, have experienced the "anger, shame, fear and guilt" of unemployment, Hyland said.

"We all come out of personal experiences to do this speaking," she said.

The lunch in May drew about 65 people; 90 showed up to a second on July 31. One man attended both and is registered for Wednesday's, Hyland said.

"It's sad that so many folks are having to attend," said Debbie Wilkinson, who heads registration for the lunches for the Presbytery. "Some of these people have been out of work for two years and feel like they're at the end of hope.

"But we see them leave empowered and energized."

The speakers Wednesday will be Hyland, job/life coach Jeannie Fennel, and Brant Piper of Presbyterian Samaritan Counseling.

Hyland said the lunches have been so successful they want to do more -- at least two more before year's end. They'd like to do others, but the Presbytery can't afford them. "They have budget constraints, too," she said.

So if you'd like to sponsor a lunch and door prizes to help good people get back on their feet, call Hyland at 980-622-5780.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to attend Wednesday's lunch in Kannapolis call Wilkinson at 704-535-9999, ext. 213. Or show up at the door at 10:15 a.m. and register there.

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