CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Individuals 55+, who are low income, can take advantage of AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program. The program pays individuals to work for non-profits and public agencies.
Workers are paid local minimum wage, and income is subsidized by the Department of Labor.
Locally, the Corpus Christi branch of AARP works with 32 non-profits and 33 local and state agencies in Nueces, Jim Wells, Kleberg, San Patricio, Refugio, Live Oak, and Willacy counties.
One non-profit that employs people through the program is Rising Tide Ministries in Flour Bluff.
“It helped me, one, get off the street. It’s a very helpful program,” said Michael West.
West has been working through the program for several local organizations over the last few months. He’s now living in an apartment after being on the street for five years.
When asked if he would still be on the street if the program didn’t exist, West responded, “Probably so, it’s hard to find a job nowadays.”
“Re-entering the workforce is a lot more difficult now for a lot of individuals who are 55+,” said Laverne Suarez, the project director at AARP Foundation Corpus Christi. “So, we’re giving individuals an opportunity to take advantage of this program, to participate in a training program.”
Rising Tide Ministries currently employs three people through the SCSEP.
“I retired from so many jobs that I’ve had over 50 years, and I said, ‘you know what, I’m getting away from the house,’ and the hours were perfect, so here I am,” said Irma Crain, one of those workers.
Crain said she loves working at Rising Tide Ministries.
“Those three days that I come here, I really, really enjoy,” she said. “I tend to customers, put out merchandise.”
Rose Covos also loves her job.
“I like organization, cleaning, washing, and helping people,” she said.
A native Spanish speaker, Covos said the job has helped her improve her English, and makes her feel useful at her age.
“This, for me, is great, I like it,” she said. “(Because it gives me the opportunity) to give service to the people, and me feeling better, and practice my English.”
An additional benefit of the program is it allows individuals to work while simultaneously developing job skills.
West said he’s seen a noticeable improvement in his communication skills.
“I’ve always been kind of a loner, stay in the back. I worked for myself my whole life, so interacting was not real well,” he said, “But, it’s helped me get along with people, and stuff like that.”
Suarez calls the program a win-win for the workers and the organizations involved with it.
“It is an opportunity for the agencies to utilize the individuals, and train, giving these individuals the opportunity to move on after they’ve received a certain amount of training, to go into the community and get un-subsidized income,” she said.
People or organizations interested in working with the SCSEP can contact the Corpus Christi AARP branch at 361-829-0076.