We continued working with 15 participants that were successfully enrolled in the WE3 program in previous quarters prior to the stay-at-home order issuance; 4 customers were carried over from PY18 after a 3 month hiatus and 11 customers were newly enrolled in PY19. Services were available for all 15 participants which include of 12 males and 3 females. Out of the 15 total participants, 12 identify as African American, 1 White, 1 Hispanic, and 1 identifies with 2 or more races. Customers are currently residing in 4 different parts of Worcester County; 9 youth are residing in 21851-zip code, 3 youth are from 21863 zip code, 2 youth are from the 21864-zip code, and 1 youth resides in 21842 zip code.
During the last part of the 3rd quarter, 3 youth customers were attending an in-person GED (General Equivalency Diploma) tutoring class held by Telamon Corp at the Pocomoke Library; 2 other customers were scheduled to join the class at the beginning of quarter 4; however, due to the stay-at-home orders for non-essential businesses, the in-person class was suspended as the library closed. The in-person class has not been reopened yet as we continue to follow the social distancing guidelines looking to reduce the risks and exposures of the coronavirus to our customers, team members, and the community at large. Three of the 5 customers mentioned continued working virtually toward their GED Pre using the Online Aztec Program also set up by Telamon team members. Two customers were also engaged in the online Job Readiness Curriculum with Conover supported by team members
The second half of FY20 was an exceedingly difficult and challenging quarter for everyone involved in the WE3 Program specifically for team members and customers due to COVID-19 pandemic. Since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began, the program has been seeing a huge increase in the numbers of disengagement among the customers that we serve compared to previous quarters. Gains that we made in previous months have been paused, and in some cases, there has been a demonstrative retraction of engagement, which is concerning. However, efforts to continue assisting customers to engage in education and/or employment was not suspended during the pandemic as we pivoted to provide many of our services virtually.
During the second half of FY20, one of our top priorities was to continue keeping customers informed of the coronavirus and how to take care of themselves and their families; we also focused on providing support to our team members to pivot services while also caring for their own physical and mental health and that of their families and other household members. The approach employed was to maintain frequent communications with customers to evaluate their situations and discuss strategies to help them alleviate some of the issues encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another focus was to help customers and team members to cope with stress presented by the pandemic.
We also assisted customers with food and referrals that were experiencing increased food insecurity as well as assisting in seeking other local support and resources.
In addition, customers were also assisted in obtaining computer equipment and/or internet services as we pivoted to virtual remote services. Furthermore, while facing the COVID-19 pandemic, team members continued professional development activities in order to learn best practices for virtual counseling and well to stay abreast around new COVID-19 developments.
Team members worked on developing and/or fostering relationships with several community partners that would support WE3 program and program participants continues to expand, including the local Chambers of Commerce in Worcester County. Berlin, Ocean City, Ocean Pines, and Pocomoke chamber have become stronger and often are one of the first entities we contact for events, trainings, and recruitment.
Team Members also attended community activities including the Resource Fair for Women in Berlin, the Salisbury-Wicomico County Job Fair at Mitchell Landing, a Job Fair in Ocean City for summer employment, the Harm Reduction at the Worcester County Health Department and various other community and in-house meetings. 131 partners/businesses/stakeholders were contacted in order to promote the WE3 program.
Outreach efforts after the pandemic occurred virtually as team members attended several of the partner agencies virtual meetings. Referrals continued to be sought through word-of-mouth and partner agencies.
• MD Food Access Response Team Weekly Meeting
• Eastern Shore Connect – Local Networking
• SACC Recovery Task Force
• HALS CoC (Continuum of Care) Meeting
• Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore Meeting
• Wicomico Co Emergency Services
• Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore: Storytelling Training
• WIOA (Workforce and Innovation Act) Youth Program COVID-19 Session
• Somerset Co. Partners Meeting
• Vulnerable Populations Weekly Meetings