Landing a new job has put Sue Wilson in a key position to help others do the same.
As of Aug. 1, Wilson became the executive director of WeLIFT Job Search Center, an Indianola nonprofit that focuses on supporting jobseekers as well as employers. She succeeds Roger Netsch, who now will oversee WeLIFT’s “Let’s Get to Work” program geared toward young adults.
“I really think it’s time to bring some positive work programs to Warren County and the surrounding areas,” Wilson said.
Although she’s settling into a new position, this is familiar territory for Wilson. She previously served as executive director of Helping Hand of Warren County, a nonprofit that provides food, clothing and other items to those in need.
When employment was among a client’s missing pieces, Wilson would often volunteer to walk them to WeLIFT. It was only a few blocks away, she said, and she knew Netsch’s heart for people.
The two had worked together years before at Indianola High School when Wilson taught medical classes and was an athletic trainer, and Netsch helped youths as an at-risk coordinator.
“Roger has so many connections in town that really helped build WeLIFT to what it is today,” said Wilson. “He’s always going up and over the top for the clients, the organization to make sure that it’s on solid ground.”
But the ground began to shift this spring. When Netsch learned that Wilson had stepped away from Helping Hand, he approached her in May to consider applying for his own position.
“He just loves to travel, and he wants to be able to have much more flexibility in his schedule,” Wilson said.
After meeting with Netsch and WeLIFT’s board of directors a few times this summer, she became confident that this was the right path for her career in the “service and compassion” field.
“Three years ago, that was the time for food, right? For clothing,” Wilson said, referring to an uptick in need spurred by the pandemic. “But I really think that now is the time for employment. Now is the time for professional and personal character-building.
“How do we keep our posture? How do we keep our positive posture through the next chaos?” she continued. “Because there’s going to be, right? That’s just the world we live in.”
WeLIFT offers plenty of options to help community members keep their heads high.
The nonprofit was founded in 2006 as a ministry of Trinity United Presbyterian Church spearheaded by Sue Kimball. It stands next to the church, in fact, at 106 E. 2nd Ave., and its services are free to anyone, whether a teenager unsure of how to land his or her first job or someone released from prison who’s eager to start a better life.
There are computers and printers to use while searching and applying for jobs. But perhaps even more importantly, there are staff to offer advice: How should a resume be put together? What will an interview be like? When people land jobs, how do they make sure to keep them?
“The foundation of WeLIFT is really powerful. It actually stands for ‘We Learn Independence for Tomorrow,’” Wilson said.
In addition to Wilson and Netsch, the day-to-day staff include Esther Snyder who “runs our office here, and she’s phenomenal,” said Wilson. “She is the rock of this place.” Mickie Larche also came aboard this summer as the job coach, following in the footsteps of Lynn Anderson.
“She was in our school district for over 30 years, so very qualified,” Wilson said of Larche. “And her love for people and compassion is going to be nothing but amazing for this organization.”
The group has big plans for WeLIFT’s future and is putting out a “call for action” from the community, said Wilson. Her first request is that people visit www.weliftjobsearchcenter.org or stop by to get to know the nonprofit.
“I would say the first thing is just to get to know who we are,” she said. “We would love to be the first thought in people’s minds when ‘Hey, my brother needs a job.’ ‘My sister, needs a job.’ … But as we look at Let’s Get to Work and we look at expanding this, can we bring in some volunteer coaches? I think absolutely.”
Under Netsch’s leadership, the Let’s Get to Work program will help high school students not only form a career plan but gain work experience to put themselves on the right track.
“He’ll go in (to schools) and work with all kids … really, any kid that’s like, ‘I don’t have a plan for after school,’” Wilson explained. “Our goal behind this is really can we build up our internships? Can we build up our job shadowing opportunities?”
Another area of WeLIFT expansion is a curriculum called “Bring Your A Game” focused on employment retention. Wilson foresees bringing this into both schools and workplaces to “really discuss the character and personality part” of keeping a job.
The “A Game” topics include attitude, attendance, appearance, ambition, accountability, acceptance and appreciation.
“In a world where our organizations are training people and then they quit a month later, how do we get in there and work with staff and new employees?” Wilson said. “That’s an area we’re looking at, too. How can we meet people where they are?”
To learn more about these opportunities, including ways to help, email Wilson at WeliftDirector2006@gmail.com or watch for upcoming information from the WeLIFT Friends Campaign.
In the meantime, the nonprofit's door is open – to anyone. Just weeks into her own new job, Wilson has seen WeLIFT's impact.
A hardworking woman who already had a job but found herself suddenly needing a second one after her husband’s injury.
A man released from prison who is excited to start a new life – with the added challenge of being physically unable to speak.
“Roger was able to make phone calls to be his voice. Literally, to be his voice,” said Wilson, emotion in her own voice. “Roger took a local connection in town, somebody he really knows, says, ‘This kid is really trying to get back on the right steps.’ And then he starts his job today.
“That’s how you change lives, right?” Wilson continued. “Every single person who walks through this door deserves a chance. It’s our job, really, to find their niche.”