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Job program at SS. John & Paul in Franklin Park guides people on path to employment

Tony LaRussa
| Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

After retiring from a more than 30-year career as a human resources professional, Carolyn Mariano looked forward to having a little more free time.

But she still felt a need to get involved in something that put the skills she developed to good work.

So when she spotted a notice a parishioner of Saints John and Paul Church in Franklin Park posted in the bulletin looking to start a program to help job-seekers, she figured she might have something to contribute.

“I was looking for opportunities to volunteer,” Mariano said. “There's a lot of things I don't know how to do, but I had lots of experience in HR. So I went to one of the meetings at the church and offered to help.”

She said most of the 40 people who attended that meeting were having difficulty finding employment.

“When that many people show up needing the same kind of help, you know there's needs that have to be met,” Mariano said.

Jerry Sabuda — the man who placed the notice in the church bulletin in early 2016 — said he was urged to start the group after participating in a job search program operated by a local nonprofit called Priority Two.

“My wife and I moved to Pittsburgh three years ago and the organization was a great resource in my job search,” said Sabuda, 63, of Cranberry, who works in the information technology department at Highmark. “So when I was approached about expanding what they were doing at my church I was excited to get involved in helping others learn about the process of finding a job.”

The church's Job Search Ministry sponsors a number of free programs and services each month, including resume review, networking, mock interviews and seminars featuring guests speakers with expertise in the job search process.

Mariano said the people attending the programs represent “a microcosm of what's going on in the work world.”

“We have younger people just starting their careers, people who have lost jobs, middle-aged people re-entering the workforce after a number of years and retirees who are interested in continuing to work,” she said. “So we try to craft the programs to provide people with the resources they need.”

While each job-seeker's circumstances and needs are different, a singular approach is used when guiding them on the path to successful employment, Mariano said.

“We give them real world, truthful advice,” she said. “People don't always like hearing what we have to say, but it's important for them to hear it if they want to make a change.”

Since the job search program's launch last year, the roster of people attending has grown to about 150, Sabuda said.

Linda Ryan of Bellevue said she got involved with the program after several years of trying and failing to land a better job.

“After 8 1⁄2 years working as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit, I was getting burned out,” said Ryan, 54. “So I started job hunting and applied on all the online sites. But nobody was really biting.”

Ryan said her discouragement grew as the number of job applications that went nowhere mounted.

“The rejection stings a little more as you get older,” she said. “I felt I needed some support if I was going to continue.”

Ryan said much of the encouragement came from people in the program who were facing similar circumstances.

“They let me know that I have skills that are worthy and pushed me not to give up,” she said.

The boost in confidence Ryan received from attending the program helped her press on until she achieved her goal — a higher paying, more challenging job in the insurance services department for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“The program offers something for everyone at every stage of their job search,” Ryan said, adding that the insights into how the hiring process works proved to be a valuable tool.

“A lot of people looking for work don't know much about what it's like on the other side of the desk for those doing the interviewing and hiring,” she said. “But the people running the program know what it's like, which can be very helpful.”

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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