South County Beat: Connecting seniors with employers

This week is National Employ Older Workers Week. PathPoint is a nonprofit organization that runs the Senior Community Service Employment Program in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

The organization is also a partner in the Five Cities One-Stop Career Center at 1800 W. Grand Ave. in Grover Beach. This program helps find part-time work for people, including veterans, older than age 55 who are in danger of becoming homeless.

Three grateful workers met with Aline Graham, director and vice president of PathPoint in San Luis Obispo, to talk about their experiences. Although there have been recent severe cutbacks in hours of their minimum wage ($8 an hour) jobs, to 12 hours from 20 per week, they spoke highly of PathPoint.

Jesse Soto works at the Central Coast Senior Center in Oceano. He fixed the back door with only a screw, when staff there thought a new door would cost $800. He repaired the plumbing, redid the kitchen cabinets and repainted.

Now at 12 hours per week, Jesse wants to make sure he has taken care of everything for three years. A participant can stay in the program for up to four years, though most find permanent jobs much sooner. However, the agency doesn’t know if funding will continue.

Ann Steele of Arroyo Grande has worked for PathPoint for 2½ years, starting at the Senior Center in the Senior Nutrition Program. Her second assignment is at One Stop, where she’s developed expertise in computers and helps people with those needed skills.

“One of the most fabulous aspects here is that we work as a team,” said Ann, clearly enjoying her work. As a single older woman, Ann must get by on $500 per month Social Security income. When her hours got cut to 12, she was forced to get groceries at outlets.

Robert Thrussell started as a participant one year ago and has trained and become a case manager at PathPoint.

“When a man loses his job, his whole reason for living is gone. Instead of wallowing, the first step is getting off their inertia,” he said. PathPoint “gives them a place to be, a base for support.”

Robert says his whole value system has changed. A main point of the program is to give participants exposure to new skills and people.

“These aren’t people sitting around at the end of their lives — they want to contribute,” Aline said.

The program benefits the community and host agencies, such as the Dana Adobe in Nipomo, the Arroyo Grande Parks and Recreation Department, the Central Coast Exploration Station in Grover Beach, People’s Self-Help Housing Corp. and the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County in Oceano.

Jesse spoke of how he couldn’t get out of bed when he couldn’t find work. There is a spiral downward. Sometimes you think it’s personal.

“I’ve never asked the government for anything, always flew high,” he said. Now he wants to give back to the program.

Jesse received a rave reference from the Central Coast Senior Center, saying, “Jesse was able to make major repairs with limited funds saving the center hundreds if not thousands of dollars just by being creative and careful about spending money.”

PathPoint is unable to take more participants now because of reduced funding. Here’s to National Employ Senior Workers Week and more funding to continue their outstanding programs that help seniors find work. For more information, contact Aline Graham at 782-8890, ext 11.

Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.