Local News

Durham Chamber Working to Find Work for Welfare Recepients

Posted May 12, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Usually, the local chamber of commerce is trying to bring businesses to people. However, one area chamber also works to bring people to businesses.

The Durham Chamber of Commerce has added a local twist to the state's Work First program. In the last two months, the Chamber has helped 90 people off of the state welfare roll and onto the payroll.

It was only one year ago that Sadi Holmes was totally dependent on a welfare check. Now, thanks to Work First and the Chamber, she is a productive member of the work force in Durham.

Under North Carolina's Work First program, welfare recipients are required to get a job within 12 weeks after receiving their first welfare check. Usually, social services aids in the job-hunting process. However, in the Bull City, the local chamber of commerce also lends a hand, helping those on public assistance to help themselves. Chamber Vice-President Tom White says that his organization's efforts appear to be paying off.

White says that getting recipients on the road to self-sufficiency helps the entire community. He says that the Work First program is a testament what is possible when government and business work together for the community. It's a team effort that has produced 22,000 jobs for welfare recipients across the state. Work First supervisor Carol Hunt says that the program is a wake-up call for folks on welfare.

Durham's program has become a model for other counties across the state. Mecklenberg, Nash, and Edgecombe Counties are working to get their chambers involved in the Work First program.