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6/2/97 Baptist entities help form welfare-to-work coalition

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission were among 18 organizations recognized as charter members of the Welfare-to-Work Coalition to Sustain Success announced by Vice President Al Gore May 29.
Describing the coalition as the next major step in the administration’s efforts to move people from welfare to work, Gore outlined the purpose of the coalition to some 200 individuals from more than 100 service and government organizations during a briefing in Washington. The briefing was also broadcast via satellite to some 3,000 locations.
Gore said the coalition, which he invited the various groups present to join, will address one of the major problems facing welfare recipients — the ability to keep the jobs they get.
WMU’s inclusion in the coalition is due to its Christian Women’s Job Corps, a holistic training program based on Christian principles for women in need. The Texas CLC was invited to join the coalition because of its work with its state government’s Family Pathfinders, a program that enables civic and faith-based community groups to work in partnership with families on public assistance to move them to self- sufficiency.
Trudy Johnson, special projects manager, will represent WMU on the coalition and Phil Strickland, head of the Texas CLC, will represent that agency.
Noting that large numbers of welfare recipients lose the jobs they get within 12 to 16 months, Gore said, “Through our work over the last four years, we’ve learned that the transition from welfare to work is more complicated and difficult than some had thought.
“Indeed, it involves two distinct problems,” he said. “First, the challenge of helping welfare recipients find jobs. The second challenge is making sure that they have the skills and support they need to keep those jobs.”
The vice president said the White House is seeking to address both problems with the formation of this coalition, along with the May 20 announcement of Welfare to Work Partnership, a nonpartisan coalition of companies which have committed to hiring welfare recipients.
Gore said the goals of the coalition, which he will convene quarterly, are: to identify ways member organizations can best participate in and/or what services or resources they might offer to a welfare-to-work support program; to work with other national organizations to encourage chapters to coordinate a local welfare-to-work support program; to showcase successful mentoring/training programs; to work with the Welfare-to-Work Partnership to involve businesses in support programs nationwide; and to work with the vice president’s office and the Departments of Health and Human Resources and Labor to locate state and local government officials who will participate in a support program.
Gore, along with a panel of civic and governmental leaders who spoke in support of the coalition, outlined several factors which contribute to the high rate of job loss among former welfare recipients. Among the factors were low wages, transportation problems, inadequate job skills and the lack of health insurance and adequate child care.
“If we are serious as a nation about helping change the lives of these families that desperately want the security and stability of an income, then we’ve got to address these basic elements,” Gore said. “Welfare recipients don’t have role models to help them make these adjustments or to stress the importance of these things that many people take for granted.
“Government isn’t really set up to deal with these varied and highly personal situations,” Gore said, “but community groups like those represented here today are. They can form this close, mentoring relationship that can take an isolated welfare mother and make her an integral part of the community.
“We’re not saying that government has no role, but we’re saying that there is much to this problem that is best accomplished by building one-on-one relationships in the context of a caring community,” he continued. “That’s where this new coalition comes in.”
Along with WMU and the Texas CLC, other charter members include: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Daughters of Isis, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Goodwill Industries, Links, Lions Club International, National Civic League, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Negro Women, National Urban Coalition, Optimist International, Salvation Army, United Way and YMCA.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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