“I want to be like her when I grow up,” beams Carol Dove, a program administrator with Towards Employment when asked about the volunteer work Judson Manor resident Virginia “Ginnie” Havens does at the agency.
A lot of people want to be like Ginnie. And it’s easy to see why: she continues to inspire both the staff and clients of Towards Employment (TE), a non-profit agency formed in 1976 that assists disadvantaged adults in Greater Cleveland in achieving and maintaining self-sufficiency through employment.
When Ginnie’s not busy taking classes at Case Western Reserve University, or enjoying the cultural advantages of University Circle with her husband George, she is at TE’s downtown Cleveland headquarters conducting mock interviews with the agency’s clients, many of whom have multiple felonies. The spry 87-year-old coaches clients through the interview process, utilizing a firm, yet gentle approach. She inspires them to open up and learn to present themselves in a positive light.
“We’ve all made mistakes,” says Ginnie. “Everyone deserves the chance to start a new life.”
Due in part to Ginnie’s volunteer efforts, in 2011 alone, 424 individuals gained long-term, permanent work, overcoming the barriers of poverty, criminal backgrounds, lack of a high school diploma or GED, unstable housing or other significant barriers.
Ginnie’s path to Towards Employment actually began with the former Cleveland Works and its late founder, David Roth. He inspired the former high school English teacher to get involved in 1989. When that agency closed in 2004, she transitioned to TE.
“She was tough,” remembers Gary Larkins, an ex-offender who met Ginnie 10 years ago through Cleveland Works, and currently serves as a case manager at TE. “She really helps you think outside of the box. I came to Cleveland Works looking for factory work, but she encouraged me to get back into social work. So, here I am!”
Towards Employment is always looking for volunteers. Ginnie is TE’s number one cheerleader, always singing the praises of the staff and sharing with others the selfless gratification she feels giving back to the organization and its clients.
“These people are very much in need,” says Ginnie. “It’s a worthwhile commitment.”
For more information about the independent lifestyle at Judson Manor, please call (216) 791-2004 or click here.
Did you like this post? Read Part 3 of the Judson Manor Residents Give Back Series.