I arrived safely in Washington, D.C. and find the veneer of the city to be old world professionalism and polish, coupled with understated modernism. This sense is not dissimilar to my years in Chicago trolling Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Reagan International Airport is quite stylish, but in an understated way, without a flash or corporate overkill. Most of the food kiosks are regional (no Chili’s Too or Starbucks that I could see!), and since I have to be at the airport quite early tomorrow for my return flight, I plan to stop by one of them for breakfast!
The people of D.C. are quite friendly and helpful, exhibiting a practical, about business sense of style; from their sensible shoes (because, like Chicago, you walk most everywhere) to understated dress. A total antithesis to Los Angeles on a number of fronts.
My lodging hosts, Rev. Paul and Mary Sherry have been more than gracious, and we have had great conversations about the state of the employment market and the importance of the work done through Tuesdays with Transitioners and other job clubs. Steve Colella, who runs a job club in Rhode Island, is also staying at the Sherry’s home, and we got a chance to get better acquainted as we walked from their Capitol Hill brownstone to My Brother’s Place, a well-known D.C. pub, which was the chosen place for a Monday night mixer for all the job club leaders.
Rev. Phil Tom, Director of the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Associate Director Ben Seigel, and Coordinator Ashley Gerwitz hosted this great opportunity to get acquainted outside of the conference calls that had been conducted over the past month or so. I appreciated getting more inside baseball on the Center’s vision for partnering with the job clubs, as well as the opportunity to hear what fellow coordinators Joy Maguire-Dooley (Lisle, IL), Ken Soper (Grand Rapids, MI) and David Mackoff (Washington, D.C.) were up to in their groups.
Today’s main event was beyond expectation, as we all got to meet and network with other Department of Labor personnel. Diana Miller, Vera Hurst, and Tracy Washington (job club coordinators and speakers who came in that morning from Ohio), presented further opportunity to hear about the joys and challenges of helping others get back to work. Diana created a powerful video featuring stories from members of her group, and the work she is doing through the Stow Community United Church of Christ Community Job Club is quite inspiring!
And what a privilege to meet U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Assistant Secretary Jane Oates. Secretary Solis presented us with a gift of a pin featuring the official seal of the Department of Labor, then spoke briefly about how important the job clubs are to the work the DOL is trying to accomplish. That is an honor I never would have imagined, and it will be a cherished memory.
The Live webinar has been posted at the Department of Labor website, and I encourage you to give it a listen, as there was so much information and wisdom shared. To see the magnificent work and commitment that so many in our faith communities and nation are employing to see their fellow Americans locate work is both encouraging and energizing.