ETSU program, aimed at community outreach, wins major grant
Published 11:29 am Monday, August 28, 2023
JOHNSON CITY – The Sullivan County native needed considerable help in 2018.
A single mother with a 4-year-old daughter hampered by health issues, she was laid off each summer as part of a part-time contract.
Immediately, East Tennessee State University went to work.
A counseling program assisted the woman and her child with much-needed resources. A career coach worked closely with her, helping her land an opportunity at a local insurance agency. She performed so well that she ultimately became a full-time member of the agency’s team.
“We’ve been fortunate to witness many successes over the years,” said Amy L. Edwards, director of Workforce Services in the ETSU Center for Community Outreach.
This center, founded in 1997 by Drs. Robert Leger and Judith Hammond, has worked closely with the state of Tennessee to offer workforce development, counseling and other critical support services to the region.
Families First, Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, is an important component of the center. And a new grant, in effect this summer, means the ETSU-based center is helping facilitate these services throughout Tennessee.
“The Center for Community Outreach takes great pride in the work that we do,” Edwards said. “We have been fortunate and very thankful for the opportunity to assist families in Tennessee.”
When it comes to Families First, the primary goal is ensuring that those who use the service gain a measure of self-sufficiency through employment. To accomplish this, Families First provides a range of resources: temporary cash assistance, transportation to jobs and interviews, child care assistance, education support and job training, among others.
The grant, valued at nearly $3 million annually, means the ETSU center will help set up, follow through with and pay for support related to removing barriers to employment.
“It is going to help the center become an even greater force of good,” said Leger.
“There is a plethora of great educational, technical training institutions and employers in our area that have been wonderful partners in serving this population,” said Edwards. “In addition, many of our staff who have worked with us on these grants utilized Families First to assist those we serve in gaining self-sufficiency, and with that experience, they have been able to encourage and guide participants and their families through the assistance process to successful careers.”
She added: “We feel that we have been gifted with an ability to significantly impact the lives of low-income individuals in our region.”
The center, having helped thousands of people since the late 1990s, embodies ETSU’s goal of improving the quality of life for the people of the region and beyond. Learn more about the center at etsu.edu/research/outreach.