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Cumberland Social Services Helps Ease Stress for Work First Participants

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FAYETTEVILLE — Raising your children is a full-time job. Add that to a 40-hour work week, and the stress can be overwhelming. Cumberland County's Department of Social Services is trying to ease that stress forWork Firstparticipants.

Hundreds ofCumberland Countyresidents have moved from welfare to work this year, but many times, those new employees do not stay with the job because of problems at home.

Now, there is a program in place to address the problems and keep them on the job.

April Henderson started work at Big E Enterprises about a month ago. The 18-year-old got the job through Work First. She wants to keep it, but she has already hit a bump in the road.

"Transportation, getting to and from work," said Henderson.

That is where Vanessa Riggs steps in. She is one of two retention specialists now working with Cumberland County DSS.

Her job is to keep Work First participants working.

"Our goal is to be there for the client and be an advocate for the client. A lot of times this is the first job they've been on, and we need to be there to support them," said Riggs.

From transportation to day care problems, the retention specialists will help find short- and long-term solutions. Big E General Manager Jim Klemish has already noticed a difference within his Work First work force.

"Without them, we experience far greater absenteeism. Overall, it enhances the position of the employee," said Klemish.

For employers, including Big E, a happy employee results in less turnover and big savings in training.

As for Henderson's driving dilemma, Riggs helped her work it out by suggesting a car pool with a co-worker.

"It takes a lot of stress off me worrying about being late and getting my son to the sitter. It helps a whole lot," said Henderson.

Other social service offices throughout the state do address retention, but Cumberland is the first county to hire people solely to work on the problem.