Archive for Monday, December 29, 2008

Church has mission to help unemployed, with job club

December 29, 2008


Tony Schroeder has been here before.

The accountant and former Shawnee resident was part of the layoffs at Sprint in 2002. He joined a job club through Church of the Nativity in Leawood to help in his search for new employment and eventually found a job with a hospital group.

But this time, it’s different.

This time, when downsizing began, he first was transferred to an open position. When that position was eliminated last month, he was to be transferred to another open position, but the company decided to freeze that position. Once again, he was out of work.

“We’re now truly numbers,” said Schroeder, who now lives in Overland Park. “They didn’t even look at the people, just the positions.”

And though it’s been just a little more than a month since he lost his job, Schroeder said he can tell that in this economy, in this climate, it’s worse than in 2002.

“This is hands down the worst,” he said. “This is gloom and doom — and I’m an optimist. Hospitals are one of the last things to get hit, but people are postponing surgeries. And that’s not good.”

Good company

So Schroeder has returned to what helped him six years ago. Sacred Heart Catholic Church in western Shawnee has formed a job club, designed to help anyone looking for a job, whether it’s due to unemployment or a desire to transition to a new career.

The club meets at 8:30 a.m. every Friday at the church. Schroeder and a dozen others shared their stories and tips for searching and interviewing for a job in this economy. Members discussed tips for job searching: business cards, using Web sites like or, researching an employer before going on an interview and different ways to network.

Maureen Reintjes, communications director for Sacred Heart Parish, serves as co-facilitator for the group along with Ralph Clevinger, a parish member with a background in pharmaceuticals.

Reintjes formerly led the job club at Church of the Nativity in Leawood, from 1995 to 2004.

“They say this holiday season, we’re going to see so many layoffs it’s going to be mind-boggling,” Reintjes said.

The group will cover resume rewrites, interviewing skills, networking possibilities and employment contacts. One of the main tools the group offers, even for those who cannot attend the weekly meetings, is a networking Web site to allow members to promote themselves to prospective employers,

Help for older workers

The site is something that attracted Phillip Morgan of Overland Park to the club. He also attends clubs at Prince of Peace in Olathe and Johnson County Community College.

Morgan classifies himself as a recovering victim of WorldCom layoffs in 2002. He had two jobs in his first 20 years in the workforce, he said, but he’s had three jobs in the last six years.

He said the clubs are extremely helpful for older job-seekers.

“We’ve been working all of our lives; we’ve forgotten how to interview,” Morgan said.

Morgan suggested to club members that they try not to be too negative when on a job interview — don’t focus too much on the loss of the previous job.

“Part of the process is getting out of that mourning, that grief of losing a job,” he said. “When you’re out there projecting in a workplace, if you’re carrying those bricks around of ‘Why did I get laid off,’ that won’t help. You’ve got to be shining.”

But at the club, it’s OK to talk about the stresses of job searching.

“In this room, I want people to feel comfortable enough to lay their feelings out,” Reintjes told club members.

— Caroline Boyer, reporter for the Shawnee Dispatch, can be reached at (913) 962-3000.


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