ACCESS POINTS: the community helping the community
It might be a little secret to some in Washtenaw County, but we’re famous across the country!
I am one of the founding "sisters", (or at this stage of my life, I should say founding "mamas",- it’s been 25 years) of the National Workforce Development Council of the United States Conference of Mayors- the council of professionals who advise the Mayors of this Country on issues impacting job seekers and employers in their communities. At their annual meeting with the Mayors in Miami, not too many days ago, Senator Obama graced us with his presence at a special VIP luncheon. Even though I thought I was VIP enough, the ONLY reason I got in to the luncheon with OBAMA, was because my daughter, Captain Terica Rusher -- 275th Military Police, National Guard Headquarters, Washington DC, who is on leave from a just very recent tour from Iraq, and had flown down to Miami to be with me during these working meetings-- had charmed several mayors with her war stories and gained a luncheon seat. Mom got to tag along…. Ha!… So it worked out for me.
The rest of my colleagues ate in the overflow room.
So, there I was sitting front and center listening to Senator Obama, who could possibly be the next President of our United States of America, and one of the first sentences out of his mouth put all of us in government on notice (and helped me start my intended blog)…. He appeared to look each and every one of us directly in the eye and pointed his hand and said vehemently…"GOVERNMENT must be the SOLUTION to the NEEDS of communities, and NOT THE PROBLEM".
Those words resonated within my head for the rest of our meetings in Miami, and all of the colleagues and elected officials I ran into were into the buzz. We must be the solution.
Well, I am so proud to let our community know, that in a HUGE WAY, Washtenaw County and ETCS has implemented ACCESS POINTS, as a solution; as a way of doing more with less, as a way of letting the community help itself, by reaching out to many who we would never have reached out to in traditional ways, and therefore making a difference in the way government does business.
So what are ACCESS POINTS? They are volunteer sites in the community where Faith-based and community-based organization get trained by ETCS staff.
These sites are extensions of the Michigan Works Services Center and help job seekers access job leads and services that they would ordinarily learn about by physically travelling to our Center (located at Hamilton and Harriet Streets in Ypsilanti).
Now, instead of spending gas to access the service and sit face to face with a real person, they can go to their area church or to a place of worship or community organization in their own neighborhood. And what’s more- Access Points don’t hold traditional 8:30am – 5:00pm office hours. Some are open on Saturdays and Sundays – some as early as 9am and others as late as 8pm.
How about that for access?
The other good news about these Access Points is that there are 29 of them all over the County. (Each of the nation's 629 designated work areas were required to have two (2)... which is why WASHTENAW COUNTY IS FAMOUS!)
Our ACCESS POINTS are at all of our Libraries. The Ypsilanti Public Library leads the pack. USDOL (United States Department Of Labor) came and visited their site and was AWESTRUCK!
You will see the signage throughout the County in Milan, Manchester, Chelsea, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor. You will see signs at area churches and places of Churches, SOS, Catholic Churches Services, Jewish Family Services, and Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
In addition to job seeker services, there is counseling, self-taught literacy software, job fairs, field trips, career exploration, job development (one site developed 100 jobs from Toyota), outreach and referral, and much more.
And there are other remarkable things about this initiative… I didn’t hire one person to make this happen!
My staff readjusted their workload to make it happen. They are a truly committed team. We didn’t buy one single new computer. Washtenaw County IT department donated computers from their "technology graveyard". We learned to do more with less.
The volunteers are so great at the Access Points we dub them Ambassadors. USDOL came out for a visit, and gave them and the County Commissioners recognitions and awards as well as a small Performance for Excellence Grant as being an outstanding leader in the field.
We are now taking this to the B-side --getting "business" involved and committed. The Ambassadors meet bi-monthly to review and evaluate its goals and get technical assistance from community specialists. Diane Keller, CEO, Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce visited the Ambassadors to talk about business involvement in the community. Jesse Bernstein, CEO from the Ann Arbor Area Chamber is scheduled soon. The Christian Business Coalition will meet with them in September and hopefully will "adopt" the Access Points and provide additional resources to the sites.
My only regret about this is we didn’t discover Access Points years ago. What a way to go!!! I am so grateful and proud of everyone who makes this all works.
Let me know your ideas, what you think, and how we can make things even better.