2009-10-22 / Community

Networking group also focuses on spiritual needs of unemployed

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

Lauren Godfrey Lauren Godfrey When Lauren Godfrey lost her job, she found her calling.

Godfrey, a resident of Thousand Oaks, was laid off from her position as an employee communications specialist at The Cheesecake Factory’s corporate office in Calabasas a year ago.

She began attending various networking groups, where she saw angry, depressed people trying to put on a good front and disguise their frustration, anxiety and fear.

Conejo Valley’s unemployed weren’t getting their spiritual and emotional needs met, Godfrey noticed, and she decided to do something about it.

“I went to my pastor and told him there were unemployed people in our community who needed help,” Godfrey said.

In March, she began leading Vocare, a faith-based networking group for those searching for career direction and support. Vocare—pronounced vo-karay—is a Latin verb that means “to call.”

“To support and uplift those experiencing the loss of employment by sharing career development resources, networking opportunities, prayer and fellowship in a faith-based, compassionate, and encouraging environment” is Vocare’s mission statement.

Anyone seeking a networking opportunity in a spiritual surrounding is invited to attend.

Members include those of the Christian, Hindu and Jewish faiths.

Meetings occur the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1600 E. Hillcrest Drive. There’s no cost to attend. The next meeting will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 28.

One to two dozen people generally attend each meeting, depending on who’s speaking and who has job interviews, she said.

At the Oct. 14 meeting, the guest speaker, the Rev. Chamie Delkeskamp, a pastor, led a discussion called “Where is God in All of This?” on the spiritual aspects of job loss.

Meetings also accommodate pastoral and psychological counseling, but the most important aspect is that the time is used to provide a positive and motivational atmosphere, Godfrey said.

“The most important things to do are to surround yourself with positive people, trust yourself and trust God,” she said.

Godfrey, who recently learned she lost her health insurance, said it’s okay to mourn loss, but “don’t stay down. You have to stay positive or you risk going to a really dark place or at least not being effective.”

She also recommends a “job buddy to keep you accountable to your job-hunting goals and to lift you up.”

The group also offers practical information such as who is hiring and the names of recruiters, she said.

Godfrey is pursuing nonprofit status to expand Vocare’s services. Through grant and private funding, the organization hopes to provide financial assistance with career development resources such as advanced training and certifications.

Right now, some members must choose between paying their bills or improving their marketability with additional training.

Godfrey said she’d like to be able to help them pay for the training so their lives will be improved long-term.

“There are a lot of extremely talented people looking for work,” she said.

Among those attending meetings at this time are people laid off from Amgen and Countrywide. The group also includes a newspaper editor, an insurance company employee, a travel agent, educators and some who are underemployed, Godfrey said.

About 90 percent of those attending are professionals, but there are blue-collar workers coming out, too.

“The good news is there have been more interviews lately,” she said.

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