Dream Center of Gaston County
(Note: This story appeared in the Gaston Gazette in Dec 2018. Click here to see the original article.)
For seven Gaston County women, Tuesday, Dec. 18, was a day of celebration.
A celebration not of the holiday season but of their own performance, their own potential, and their own act of putting behind them the shadows and doubts of the past.
The women were graduating from the Jobs for Life program, a national jobs readiness course for adults which incorporates biblical truths and stories to help men and women restore their dignity and develop the skills which will equip them for work and life. Locally, the Jobs for Life program is a part of the Dream Center of Gaston County, a ministry founded and supported by Bethlehem Church, and it was at the Dream Center that Tuesday’s graduation ceremony was held. The Dream Center strives to minister to those living in poverty and provide them the means to move up from poverty.
The class involved 16 sessions of three hours each, two per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The students learned such skills as developing a resume, how to prepare for a job interview, how to dress for an interview, how to handle difficult questions during an interview, and the importance of eye contact and a firm handshake.
During the eight weeks of instruction, the students heard from Gaston County employers, were put through a series of mock job interviews, and received instruction in how to develop public speaking and writing skills. Leading the students through the eight-week course was class instructor Terry Hartgrove, whose final words of instruction to the graduates were, “Don’t ever look down on someone unless you are extending your own hand to help them up.”
Bethlehem pastor Dickie Spargo told the graduates to always remember, “God doesn’t define us by our past or by what other people say about us. We need to remind ourselves, always, that we are children of God."
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Shay Bethea, Director of Training and Leadership development for the national Jobs for Life organization. Bethea candidly acknowledged that she had suffered from sexual abuse and domestic violence, was homeless for a time, and in 1999 had her two children removed from her home because they were being abused.
“Don’t allow anything from your past to hold your future hostage,” she told the graduates. “If God can do it for me, He can surely do it for you."
“I want you to be amazing women,” Bethea continued. “I want you to take this city by storm. You need to lift other women up with your stories. You need to let people know that this program is life changing, dignity restoring, and people building.”