In January 2022, Jack and Shama Ray walked into the Park Hills Job Center asking about funding resources that could help them cover their tuition for the police academy. They had two children and were currently receiving SNAP benefits. Jack and Shama were both eligible for WIOA and SkillUp funds.
Jack was enrolled in the police academy at Jefferson College. He had already completed a semester and paid for it himself. Shama enrolled in the Mineral Area Police Academy. Both received Pell Grants to help them as well. SkillUp was able to help them with reimbursement for travel expenses which covered the cost for gas. Both Jack and Shama had great attendance and received high marks for the training.
On June 23rd, Jack graduated second in his class. He received awards for the most community service hours and the most ride-along hours. On July 1, he began his career with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department.
Shama began her last semester of training in August, and she is on track to graduate in December.
Any day of the year, this is a great success story for our WIOA partners, but that is only part of their story.
On Wednesday, June 8th, an unexpected tragedy occurred. The Ray’s son died in a terrible accident. I received word about it on Friday, June 10. I knew that they would be struggling for the means to pay funeral expenses, never mind enduring the mental stress and unbearable emotions in the coming days, months, and even years. It was less than two weeks before Jack’s graduation.
On Friday evening, I remembered a session that I had attended at the 2022 MAWD Conference in April. Wellness for Warriors was presented by Kerry Miller. I quickly did a search for his website and found a phone number. I contacted his offices, and the person I spoke with took the information about my client’s needs. I was provided Kerry’s personal phone number, so I called him and left a message. Within 30 minutes he called me back.
Over the weekend, Kerry Miller and I were able to work with Jack and Shama to set up a GoFundMe account. Because the Rays are also volunteer firefighters, Kerry was able to reach out to other organizations for donations. In addition to the donations, he set them up with free mental health care. He has also made himself personally available whenever needed. The funeral for Jack and Shama’s son was June 17th.
Jack made it to graduation with the help of an agency that I had connected with through MAWD, Wellness for Warriors is not a required WIOA partner. They are a priceless resource that is willing to partner any time there is a need.
When I walked into the Wellness for Warriors session at the MAWD Conference, I was there because I had an empty slot of time in my schedule. I was interested in the information that was shared. I didn’t know it would make a world of difference for a couple of very special people in just a couple of months.Billi “BJ” Litton
WIOA/SNAP Case Manager
Park Hills Job Center