In 2018, Mississippi tops another national list; unemployment. While the unemployment rate for Mississippi has reached a record low, Hancock County continues to fall short. According to statistics, the unemployment rate in the county is 6% higher than any other area in the state.
With 21% of residents living in a state of poverty, one local, non-profit organization aims to make a difference.
Diane Bennett, Executive Director and Site Coordinator for The Gulf Coast Christian Women’s Job Corps (GCCWJC), said she recognized the need for a local job program while participating in prison ministry.
“One of the things we try to do during the program is discover what it is these woman want to do with their life instead of saying, ‘Let’s go find a job,'” Bennett explained.
In 2010, Bennett established the women’s organization. Their mission, Bennett said, was to encourage women to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, to provide hope, and to move them towards self-sufficiency by providing education, mentoring, and strength-based skills.
“We are a faith-based ministry so everything we do and speak is based on scripture,” said Bennett. “Every class we teach has scripture behind it, whether it’s a money management or job skills class. Whatever the session is, it is led by Christian women.”
Bv 2011. the non-orofit began offering classes in money management, career skills, and a wide variety of other life courses including bible study. The effort, Bennett said, has helped to repair many lives and families.
“All the women who have completed our program,” Bennett said, will always turn around and say it was because of their relationship with Jesus that they were able to change.
Bennett shared one lady’s story. She said the woman dreamed of going to nursing school and is now enrolled in classes and achieving that dream.
“When she reached out to us last summer, she was, all of the sudden, a single mom of two children and working at McDonald’s. There were a lot of roadblocks in her way that she felt were insurmountable and we just took them one at a time.”
In order to further success with GCCWJC, Bennett has been working to raise funds to acquire a vacated motel. The organizations plan is to renovate the place as temporary home for the women in the program.
“A lot of the women that reach out to us cannot participate because they don’t have transportation or a safe place to live,” said Bennett.
“So they focus on that before they can focus on anything else. But how do you get a place to live if you don’t have a job and how do you get a job if you don’t have a place to live?”
Many of the women who enter the program have come out of rehab or incarceration and they have little or nothing.
“If we can acquire this property and convert it into a place to stay,” Bennett said, “then the women can come there and begin the program, receive mentoring, heal, and work on developing relationship-building skills within themselves and the community.”
“Then we can move toward helping them find safe housing, transportation, and a job so when they leave, they can be self-sustaining and no longer reliant on government help.”
Bennett says GCCWJC has assisted women not only in building a career but in building their families back. “By us doing this, these women will get their children out of CPS, reducing the number of children in foster care in Hancock County.”
These women will get off drugs and stay clean and out of jail and once the women get jobs and benefits, they will no longer be dependent on the welfare system. So it helps the community financially in a lot of different ways.”
Gulf Coast Christian Women’s Job Corps has most recently become a part of No Judgment Day; a coastwide movement spearheaded by local leaders aiming to help those who struggle with everyday life, addictions, and other societal epidemics.
To learn more about Gulf Coast Christian Women’s Job Corps, contact Diane Bennett at (228) 586-3510 or GCCWJC@gmail.com.