Through the NAW Nonprofit Network, North AlabamaWorks is proud to partner with community organizations providing workforce development services in our region. We are pleased to share the story below from the Lawrence County Community of Churches, which recently hosted a job fair for their neighbors.

By Lawrence County Community of Churches (Lawrence County, Alabama)
June 2024

The Lawrence County Community of Churches was formed one year ago after several local churches began working together to meet the needs of those in our community. We began talking by phone, and that morphed into having lunches where different organizations could come and present how they can help us serve our community.

We are a group of churches of different sizes, capabilities, and denominations. Our goal is to go beyond just giving a handout to solve a specific need, but rather give a hand up to help change the trajectory of a person and/or a family.

In October 2023 we asked the Decatur Career Center to make a presentation to our group about how we can help those we serve either find meaningful employment or a better career path. This was driven by the fact that most of the churches had been approached for food vouchers, help with utility bills, or gas vouchers to help with transportation needs. By asking questions of those seeking assistance, we identified a common thread.

People in our county find it difficult to make enough to get through the month. These needs are even more prevalent with the rise of inflation. Decatur Career Center representatives Tim Simpson and Summer Morgan attended our lunch meeting and made the presentation. They had some very good ideas for us, including the possibility of a job fair.

Some of the churches began to talk about putting on our own job fair in Lawrence County. Pleasant Grove Baptist Church quickly volunteered their gym. Upon securing a location, the job fair idea took on a life of its own. As we started this process, we had individuals in our community who said it would not be possible. As we began to get traction, some said it would be a flop. Our members just kept praying, walking, and working as we were reminded of the quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

At this point I want to thank all those who worked with us at the Decatur Career Center. Their input, encouragement, and manpower were critical to our success. Once it became apparent that our plan for a county-wide job fair was coming together, we had a groundswell of support and enthusiasm from the community. Employers wanted to be a part of it. Our churches and local restaurants banded together to provide food for the Hospitality Room. We had more than enough volunteers to help with operating the job fair. We had 48 companies/organizations sign up to be at the event with only four no-shows.

In the end we had 225 applicants walk through the door. We know of at least 80 job offers and there are still more being processed. Follow-up calls to the employers to express our appreciation for their attendance at the fair were met with “No, we want to thank you for inviting us.”

We also delivered 121 resumes and resume worksheets to the Decatur Career Center for them to add to their pool of candidates for jobs in the area. We attracted candidates not just from Lawrence County but also from surrounding counties.

By all accounts, we had a very successful event.  We are already working on the event for next year to make it even better.  We know we did not give a handout to 80 people — we gave them a hand up.  Mission accomplished.