In 1995 a small group of people gathered in Texas to brainstorm about ways to address the plight of women living in poverty. By the end of their meeting, they had developed a plan that would empower women to minister to women in need, equipping them to rise up out of poverty. Out of this plan, Christian Women’s Job Corps was born.
Five CWJC pilot projects were established in January 1996, and the following year CWJC was among the eighteen charter members of the Vice President’s Welfare to Work Coalition to Sustain Success. Candy Phillips served as the Associate Director of the Nashville Baptist Association’s WMU Leadership Team during that period, and she, along with WMU Director Creely Wilson, clearly recognized the potential of CWJC to transform the lives of women trapped in poverty. With their strong support and encouragement, and WMU Leadership Team voted to establish a CWJC site in Nashville. In October of 1997 the first ten women were enrolled in CWJC-Nashville. Originally based at Lockeland Baptist Church, today CWJC of Middle Tennessee is housed in the Downtown Ministry Center on 8th Avenue South.
Christian Women’s Job Corps – Nashville (CWJC) was founded in 1997. During the first five years, the agency served women in need in the Nashville area under the non-profit status of the Nashville Baptist Association CWJC-Nashville was incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in February 2003.
CWJC serves women of all faiths who are primarily unskilled or underemployed. Many are single moms who are unable to make ends meet. Others may be in recovery, recently released from prison, abused, homeless or international refugees. CWJC’s goal is to help these women obtain self-sufficiency through employment, job training, education, housing, transportation, childcare and medical care.
Each participant develops her own Personal Goal Plan when she enrolls in CWJC. To help her stay on track and reach her goals, she is paired with a volunteer mentor. A mentor must be: a woman who is 25 years of age or older who has an active faith; who successfully completes mentor training; and who makes a commitment to spend at least one hour of her time per week with her partner. Mentors are there to support, encourage, guide and comfort the participants.
A corps of more than 250 volunteers work to help these women meet their goals by teaching computer classes, GED classes, life and job skills classes, job coaching, networking to community resources and Bible study. In addition, volunteers also provide childcare and tutoring for participant’s children while they attend training classes. CWJC also has a gifting program that provides cars and computers to participants.
CWJC works in cooperation with many other community organizations. In cooperation with Nashville Public Television, GED Connection books are provided to community residents, and when enrollment in CWJC classes is closed, individuals are referred to other GED classes in the community. CWJC also works closely with the residents of The Next Door, a program of transitional living for women leaving prison.
Major milestones include: established computer lab (1998); established GED classes (1999); Teen Life Challenge participants enroll in computer classes (1999); a Habitat for Humanity House is built for a participant in partnership with Woman’s Missionary Association of the Nashville Baptist Association Woman’s Missionary Union (2000); college student intern on staff (2000); SCEPT placed seniors as staff (2001); CWJC-Nashville incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in February 2003, moved to new central downtown location (2003); classes provided to recently released women offenders (2004); received a Seedco Planning Grant (2004); high school intern on staff (2004); largest class of graduating participants (2005); first Satellite coordinator added to staff (2005); Office Coordinator added to staff (2006); Strategic Plan Formulated (2006); Name was changed to CWJC of Middle TN (2006); Received national recognition and was awarded the 2006 Samaritan Award by Acton Institute (2006); Development of two new satellites Madison and Williamson (2007); increased staff to three satellite coordinators, development position and volunteer recruiter trainer (2007), established Mary Frances Turner CWJC Volunteer Award (2008), received HCA/Microsoft grant to establish computer labs for all three satellites (2010), Strategic Plan formulated for 2010-2013 (2010), completed a branding process with Bohan marketing and changed the logo and promotional materials (2010).