In late October, Brenda Barton took an Amtrak from Colorado to northeast Indiana, where she had relatives and where she wanted to get a new start after spending 12 years in prison for a felony sex-related conviction.
She had made the most of her life in prison, availing herself of numerous mental health and drug rehabilitation programs, and getting her GED, short-term certifications, and a scattering of college credits. She also began healing from a lifetime of being sexually abused, beginning when she was 5 years old.
But she found it difficult to find employment after she arrived in DeKalb County, so she turned to WorkOne Northeast for help. She completed workshops on basic computer skills and resume development, learned how to perform well in a job interview, and visited a Dress for Success program in Fort Wayne.
In February, all the hard work – and the guidance of a WorkOne Northeast staff member – led to a job at an automotive manufacturer testing for leaks in fuel lines. WorkOne Northeast also helped her get steel-toed boots required for the position.
“This is from my heart: (WorkOne) cares about people who are needing help,” said Barton, 54. “I went in there and I didn’t feel judged. I believed them. They made me feel like they had my back. I’ve never had that much support.”
Now, she not only has a job, she is studying business administration online with the University of Arizona Global Campus.
“My focus now is solely on work and schooling,” she said. “WorkOne made my dreams come true.”
Electrical Engineer Sheri Stark of Fort Wayne is another success story. She had been out of the workforce for 16 years. After getting laid off from an employer that had moved out of state, she had taken time to raise her two children, mentor other students, and she and her husband had completed a project her late father-in-law had started: building and flight testing a single-engine, two-seat airplane.
In October 2020, she was ready to continue her career, but she had some reservations about re-entering the workforce.
“I was really nervous about going back to work,” she said. “It had been 16 years. I was intimidated and overwhelmed a bit. There were a few things that had changed (in the job search process).”
She attended a virtual resume development workshop presented by WorkOne Northeast and the Allen County Public Library. WorkOne Northeast also conducted mock interviews with her.
“I really benefited from the mock interviews,” she said. “They gave me the confidence I needed.”
WorkOne assisted Stark with her job search and she landed a job as an electrical technician with a local boat builder. It is a part-time job (28 hours a week), which fits her family schedule, and she is enjoying the intellectual stimulation, the sense of productivity, and learning new things.
“It is what I had enjoyed before and had missed.”