Montgomery Co. based nonprofit helps DC area jobseekers

A Wider Circle’s professional development center provides professional clothing for jobseekers. (Courtesy of A Wider Circle)

COVID-19 has caused many local nonprofit organizations to redirect their missions to address the community’s growing needs. A Wider Circle is one of those organizations.

“We’ve had to shift our training and our actual services,” Amy Javaid, president and CEO of the organization.

It’s professional development center has provided professional clothing for jobseekers and, before COVID-19, their clients could visit their locations in Silver Spring or Ward 8 in D.C. There, patrons could participate in small group workshops or multiday trainings.

It is currently working virtually with job seekers to navigate the labor market. This could include resumes, interviews, emotional intelligence or just practicing conversation and troubleshooting at work.

” … [We’ve] found that many of those with whom we work don’t have a network,” Javaid said. “Working through those realms of discouragement, working through those realms of frustration, working through the self-doubt.”

Javaid also said that making the shift to virtual was difficult, as they needed to help “insure that folks not only have digital access, but digital literacy.”  She added that her first virtual sessions consisted of lessons on how to maneuver Zoom.

Barriers to employment

The president and CEO also said that the barriers to employment changed during the pandemic.

Suddenly, people found themselves without child care, with additional barriers to transportation, or personal health concerns.

“That meant where they were willing to go and what they were willing to do shifted. And, not entirely by their choice,” Javaid said.

Prior to COVID-19, she said they didn’t spend much time with their jobs seekers answering questions about food access, rental support or different forms of transportation. Now those things have to be included in every discussion.

Javaid emphasized that the pandemic forced the nonprofit to become more flexible in it’s’ format and how it delivered services.

A Wider Circle also provided furniture to people moving into new living situations.

“Right now, we are coordinating to support the newest members of the community — the refugees from Afghanistan — and providing them furniture as they identify new homes,” she said

Javaid joined A Wider Circle’s staff in 2017.  She became President and CEO of the organization in July of 2021 after the organization’s founder, Dr. Mark Bergel, left the post. Bergel has since served on the organization’s board of directors.

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference in our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. You can read more of that coverage by clicking here.

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