They were very dark days.
That’s how Jan Lyon recalls the time just before she found her way to Heartisans Marketplace and its’ job training program for unemployed women in the community. Lyon had been convicted of shoplifting and she found it was “extremely difficult” to land a job with a misdemeanor on her record, even after she successfully completed probation. “Turns out, it is harder to get a job with a theft charge than almost any other charge, even if it was a misdemeanor,” Jan says.
“I didn’t have much hope,” she recalls. “I was frustrated and depressed. I had successfully completed probation and was trying to do everything right, but no one would hire me. I was scared I would lose everything and end up in a homeless shelter.”
Lesa Schwartz, the women’s ministry leader at Mobberly Baptist Church, helped her connect with Heartisans. “The hardest part about the Heartisans’ program was the reading for information (in the WorkKeys assessment). I thought the math would be hardest for me, but that reading for information was tough,” Jan says. “I enjoyed the comradery of Heartisans the most. It felt, and still does, like family. I think I speak for all of us when I say Julee is like a mom to us.”
Julee Rachels is founder and chief executive officer of Heartisans Marketplace. Julee, along with many volunteers, shepherds the women through the program and into work, ensuring they have what they need to start new lives. “The Heartisans program is literally saving women’s lives. I know it did mine,” Jan says.
Jan has completed the program and is now working as a medical transcriptionist/editor living in her own home. “I thank God for Heartisans and Julee,” Jan says. “She has such a generous heart for women. I admire her energy and compassion. She is more than a mentor. She is a friend for life and will always be there for me and the other ladies. There are so many other volunteers and teachers that helped me. Ann Ramsey has been an inspiration. She has such a sweet spirit and has taught me a lot about budgeting and just life in general.”
Now, Jan says she wants to help other women as well, especially homeless women, or women who are in jail or just getting out. “I want women to know there is hope and that there are people out there who care and are ready to help,” Jan says.