CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
BURNET — A simple newspaper notice with deep meaning promoting the Christian Women’s Job Corps of the Highland Lakes inspired Diane Shaffer to change the direction of her life.
“There was an ad in the newspaper, and it said, ‘Are you ready for a hand up and not a hand out?’ That caught my eye,” said Shaffer, a high school dropout with her GED. “Everybody tries to help along the way, and you want to start trying to do things for yourself. Instead of taking help, I wanted to figure out how I can help myself.”
She applied and was accepted into the program, which conducts courses at 108 S. Vanderveer St. in Burnet.
The program, celebrating its 10-year anniversary April 13, will be held at First Baptist Church of Burnet with donations from area churches and free services and resources from businesses and community volunteers.
“When I came here, I was really afraid that it was a Christian-based program, but that was the reason why God brought me here — to discover him,” she said. “I learned how to take care of my needs. The job skills are awesome. It changed my life on a track of a spiritual journey.”
Diane Shaffer not only graduated with the fall class of 2012, she was hired to become an administrative assistant at the facility.
“It’s nice to be here every day and watch everybody mature and change,” she said.
Site coordinator Alice Wooten added, “When the new ladies come in, Diane can identify with them in those first few days. She has a way of mentoring the women.”
The Christian Women’s Job Corps reaches out to women of all faiths who have lost jobs, just moved to the area, are recently divorced, seperated or widowed or are trying to re-enter the workforce after issues with domestic violence or substance abuse.
Launched in 2004, the program offers 12-week sessions in the spring and the fall. Courses include personal development, money matters, clothing skills, business etiquette, résumè writing and computer skills.
Daily Bible studies remain a cornerstone of the program.
“You walk in the door, and you can feel (God). He’s here with us,” said Joyce Cross, a current student in the program. “We learn more about each other. We know each other’s hearts. We know we’re good people.”
Staff and volunteers have watched the program evolve to meet a growing need.
“We had to operate on a shoestring budget,” Wooten said. “Professional ladies stepped up. A lot of them are retired. Several take time off from their job to teach a class.”
The program relies on church grants and monetary and in-kind service donations.
“It’s the whole community that keeps the program going,” Wooten said. “The last 10 years have been a big success for us. God has met all our needs and provided for us. We’ll just be obedient to whatever he has for us.”
The public is invited to the program’s 10th anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. April 18 at First Baptist Church of Burnet. Alumna are scheduled to share succeess stories including Paula Mayes, a founding class graduate who, after graduation, founded a drug and alcohol transition house for women in Marble Falls.
For more information, call (512) 756-1484 or (210) 415-8612.