In Powell Valley, Va., a rural area where financial struggle is common, the entire community is affected when a business closes. After a local Kmart shut down, leaving hundreds of people unemployed, members of the Powell Valley church stepped into action.
“Several of our members lost their jobs,” said Shawn Kelley, pastor. “John McFarland, one of our deacons, approached me and said he would like to preach an encouraging sermon of finding peace in the midst of a struggle. While we discussed this, we decided we wanted to do more than preach a sermon, we wanted to find a way to really help.”
From there, Kelley and McFarland worked to organize a job fair. The men wanted to be sure the jobs presented would be available for people in the five nearby valleys. They started by making a list of businesses with multiple locations. Then, they called district managers. After that, they personally went to local businesses to discuss participating in the fair and lastly, they collected blank applications from businesses that wanted to participate but were unable to make it the event.
In all, four companies were on-site for the five-hour fair, and 20 additional companies sent applications for attendees to fill out. “The day started with a job searching seminar, which focused on tips for developing an effective resume, listing references and identifying key skills,” said Kelley. “We also practiced job interviewing skills and each person set personal goals.” Afterwards, a free lunch was provided and then a three-hour block for learning about the businesses and time to fill out applications.
An estimated 80 people attended, with more than 20 community members. About 600 applications were filled out and several people have already started new jobs. At the end of the fair, attendees were asked to fill out community survey cards, allowing them to indicate services they would appreciate being offered, like Bible studies or financial or addiction seminars. Fifteen people requested Bible studies and eight expressed an interest in attending the prophecy seminar which started about a month later.
Powell Valley members are already brainstorming ideas to on how to better help the community in the future. “Life is about helping one another in any way possible,” said Kelley. “We truly want to be a resource for each person and will continue to build relationships and provide services that make a difference.”