ROGERSVILLE — Of One Accord Ministry’s Rogersville-based Emergency Food Pantry provides more than just food.

Since 2018, Gerald Maher, a Food Program Counselor, has made it his mission to help food clients and community members be better prepared for the workforce. He helps people create resumes, learn computer and job interview skills, and find employment opportunities.

And he’s doing a great job.

“I am only doing this for three hours a week and there are over 60 people employed already,” he said.

Maher has been a volunteer with the ministry for several years. His current role is supported by the First TN Human Resource Agency.

Job training services are provided on Tuesdays (by appointment only) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Shepherd’s Center Thrift Store, in Rogersville, and are free of charge to anyone in the community.

Why does Maher think these services are important?

“I have a passion,” he said. “I have worked with people for over 30 years. In my research, it is virtually impossible to get out of welfare. There are so many people on welfare that when they work they get penalized. They get removed from subsidized housing. They have gas and child care expenses that they didn’t have before. So it takes several years before individuals can see the fruits of their labor and have any extra money.”

He says many people are simply “stuck” and don’t know how to get out of the “cycle of poverty”.

Maher feels Of One Accord Ministry plays an important role in helping these individuals.

“We are their social contact. We need to provide opportunity,” he added.

So what is key to his success?

“I speak their language,” he said. “I ask them why they haven’t achieved their dream because I just want to know their dream. A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. And then a goal can be broken down into steps.”

He sees his role as helping people learn about their own abilities and strengths.

“I say, you’ve been a mom for five years on your own? Do you know how powerful that is?” he said.

Everything in Maher’s office sends a message. He has motivational quotes and life skill tips hanging all over his office walls. He says people come in and “just request the resources. They put it in their house. Maybe it gives them a little hope.”

Maher has others helping him to recruit, too. Yvonne Woelke, who also works at Of One Accord Ministry through a FTHRA-sponsored program, helps recruit new clients. She tells them, “Oh, you are looking for a job? Gerald can help you!”

If you need assistance with resume writing, job searching, or job coaching, contact Maher at The Shepherd’s Center to schedule an appointment, 423-272-4626.

Basic computer classes are also provided, by appointment only. Individuals must have a laptop, notebook, or tablet.