American Association of University Women-Elkhart Branch

The Elkhart Branch of American Association of University Women met at Church Community Services, 907 Oakland Ave., on Oct. 9 for an overview and tour of the SOS Progam for women. Jantha Havens introduced the speaker, Betsy Ayrea Delfine, who started the program of job and life-skill training for women 22 years ago and still exudes excitement for what takes place for the women in the program.

She began her discussion with a little background on Church Community Services, which has been a part of the community for 52 years. She explained that Church Community Services assists families in crisis, which could be a money crisis or a food crisis. Approximately 1,300 families come through each month for food. The Seed to Feed program is part of this and includes 25 gardens around the county. This summer the program reached its one-millionth pound of produce, which is used in the food portion of Church Community Services and also is given to other pantries in the county. She shared the collaborative efforts of various groups and individuals to provide the seeds, the land and other services needed to keep the program going.

The other aspect of Church Community Services is empowerment, which is where the SOS program begins, she said. As the organization began to explore the lives of the people they serve they found people in chaos and isolation. The SOS program was developed to help overcome these issues. Women who want to be a part of the SOS program must be willing to commit to four hours of class work a day for five months. Currently there is a waiting list for women to participate in the program. Referrals come from all over the county – drop-outs, victims of domestic violence and empty nesters. They are women who don’t want to be stuck anymore.

Classes begin with individual counseling and group counseling. They have to see where they are and where they want to be, according to Delfine. Classes teach money management, debt reduction, computer skills and conflict resolution. They also have classes outside the box where students write their life stories and look for patterns in their behavior. They receive career counseling such as writing resumes, doing mock interviews and research on careers.

A business is also run where they learn weights and measures and safe handling of food and basic skills of the business but through practical experiences. The upcycling of old sweaters into mittens, making pillows, packaging food products and sewing are some of the skills learned through the business. Several local companies provide some of the raw materials needed for their products.

After sharing the basic components of the program, Delfine led the members on a tour of the building including classes, computer room, areas where products are made and the most recent makeover of their store area where products can be purchased. The group was invited to come to Trinity on Jackson, 2715 E. Jackson Blvd., on Nov. 14 to hear powerful inspirational stories of hope and courage in a monologue style performance and sample some new products and shop for items. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the performance begins at 7 p.m. Dessert and discussion will follow. More information and tickets are available at 574-523-1551.

The next meeting of AAUW will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the home of Bev Wiemeri. The annual scholarship auction will take place in addition to an evening of wine, cheese and fellowship.

– Submitted by Carol Wiegner

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