Most people do not know there are more than 20,000 working-aged women in Forsyth County living in poverty. Or, that as many as 5,000, or 25% of those women, do not have minor dependents in the home. Since census data are not specifically gathered to identify this demographic, the statistical interpretations vary from source to source.1
Who should care and why do these statistics matter?
First, everyone should care.
Second, as compared to single women with dependents who do receive assistance, women without dependents have limited access to assistance and resources, which can make all the difference in these women’s lives, to their families, in their relationships and to the community at large.
Enter Pivot Ministry
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “pivot” as a verbmeans “to turn on or as if on a pivot.”
Envisioned in 2015 and initially funded by Ardmore Baptist Church, Pivot Ministry is based on the successful 20-year-old model of the Christian Women’s/Men’s Job Corps®. Pivot’s objective is to empower low-income women for better life and income-producing opportunities through classes in life and job skills, and Bible study, supported and sponsored by local community resources.
According to Carol Polk, the Executive Director and Site Coordinator of Pivot Ministry, “We found these women’s requests for assistance are often denied; therefore, we determined our initial target group would be these underserved women, whether they are married or single.”
During the semester and following graduation, each participant partners with a one-on-one Christian mentor to guide them as they complete their class work and begin their new personal journeys. To begin, a woman must be referred and screened before earning a scholarship to participate free of charge.
New Skills from Education and Support
The ministry launched its first class with seven women on March 1st, 2018. They met as a small group one day each week for classes and a shared meal for the sixteen-week semester.
Each of the sixteen program-days was broken up into 3-5 sessions that varied from week to week. Topics included Financial Management, Interviewing Skills, Behavioral and Mental Health, Change and Decision-making, Conflict Management, Women’s Health, as well as Perseverance and Succeeding in life and the workplace, among others.
Community Comes Together to Support the Program
For more than two years, Pivot worked developing collaborative relationships with local organizations to identify gaps in service to this demographic cohort and strategizing how to work together. They also developed customized content with input from the participants, which is consistent with an asset-based community development approach.
Polk assured, “Without the support of the community, our partners and sponsors, we could not deliver this high-quality instruction to our participants. The skills they learn and the relationships they forge among themselves, with their mentors, the instructors and sponsors, empowers them to approach their lives and future employment with new eyes and experiences grounded in the training we provide.”
She continued, “I watched our participants flourish! They have hope, specific goals, and a sense of achievement. We have built a strong, supportive community in this small group and hope they will continue those relationships for many years to come.”
Pivot’s community partners include Allegacy Federal Credit Union,Ardmore Baptist Church, Financial Pathways of the Piedmont(formerly Consumer Credit Counseling), Forsyth Technical Community College, Goodwill Industries of NWNC, Totally Responsible Person(TRP), various departments of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Debbie Loftis, who teaches LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are.
The first class of seven women received their achievement certificates on Saturday, June 23rd, at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Margaret Johnson, longtime news anchor for WXII News 12, was the featured speaker, and Eddie Bines, a Winston-Salem vocal artist, was the featured singer.
A new group will begin in August 2018. For more information, visit pivotnow.org.
1Map, Forsyth County, N.C.,; Forsyth Futures; the City of Winston-Salem; The Women’s Fund; and the Department of Social Services