Seniors Get Digital Skills Training To Reach Out To Lonely Seniors During Pandemic

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - by Cindy Todd, Goodwill Industries

After suffering a financial setback due to medical expenses while fighting cancer, Patricia Holden, 72, realized she couldn’t make ends meet on Social Security alone.  She tried working temporary, unfulfilling jobs, and then decided to improve her skills through a program managed by Chattanooga Goodwill Industries.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program is a federally funded, community service and work-based job training program for low-income, unemployed seniors. Kimberly Crider, director of the local SCSEP Program at Chattanooga Goodwill Industries, works with seniors like Ms. Holden to make sure they get access to job training opportunities that will eventually lead to permanent employment.

“Everything was going well for Patricia until the pandemic,” said Ms. Crider.  “She did well with digital skills training and was thriving in her administrative assistant trainee position. When she was unable to continue in that role due to preexisting medical conditions that put her at risk, we were determined to find a job training assignment that would allow her to continue to build her skills.”

A partnership with the Juanita C. Grant Foundation and its newly launched Village Connector Experience provided just the right opportunity for Ms. Holden and two others in SCSEP.  The Village Connector Experience is designed to mitigate the loneliness and isolation generally experienced by older Americans and now worsened by the COVID -19 pandemic.

“I honestly don’t know what I would have done financially if SCSEP weren’t here when COVID hit,” said Ms. Holden.  “Besides helping me make ends meet, it’s inspiring to connect with other seniors and hear how they’re coping with the isolation.”

Ms. Holden completed 16-hours of training in motivation intervention and customer service and is now certified as a Village Connector Experience Ambassador, reaching out to others from her home office in Cleveland.  SCSEP staff at Chattanooga Goodwill Industries provided Zoom technology operation support, and now Ms. Holden is an IT mentor to other trainees.

Hundreds of miles away in Grand Junction, Co. 71 year-old Terry Baxter was paired with Holden to receive a “sunshine call” three times per week.  “It is so nice to receive encouraging words,” said Mr. Baxter. “This has been very helpful with the loneliness I felt.”

Ms. Crider praises Ms. Holden, saying she has done such a great job, the Foundation is looking to expand her duties as it looks to expand the number of people in the Chattanooga area who are enrolled in the free program.  “Holden’s experience is a great example of the power of Goodwill,” said Ms. Crider. 

Chattanooga Goodwill Industries was established 97 years ago by Miriam Brock, wife of the founder of Brock Candy Company.  The organization’s focus has been on helping people, regardless of ability, situation or background, to find meaningful work opportunities so that they can achieve their full potential and participate in all aspects of a productive life.

The Juanita C. Grant Foundation provides education and training, advocacy and research to address economic insecurity, workforce development and quality of life challenges for the 50 plus community.


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