The unemployment rate is holding steady at over 9% for most of the year according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The news is even worse for workers over fifty ­five years old, AARP reports it is taking 547 weeks to find a job and many older workers just give up. Earle Hart, Director of the Passport to Employment Ministry at Church of the Crossing on Indianapolis’ North side, ignores grim realities. “People listen to the news and the news tells them if you are forty-five or fifty-five you cannot get a job, and that’s not true,” says Hart. He knows a thing or two about putting Boomers to work. Actually 270 people have Hart and the Passport to Employment program to thank for their new careers.

Since the program began three years ago nearly 400 people have found their way back into the workforce when you count those in temporary, part ­time and contract positions. Passport to Employment has three objectives. “First it is a support group because no one understands the anxiety and worries of being unemployed except others going through the same thing,” says Hart. Secondly he describes it as a networking group. “Now instead of looking for a job by yourself you’ve got fifty other people helping you find work. They pass on job leads to others in the group,” Hart said. The third objective is for companies looking to hire. “Hiring managers have changed how they hire,” says Hart, “rather than receive 1500 resumes for one job opening; companies will often notify Passport to Employment when a position is available.”

Ron Crumley has used the program twice. “I was filling out online resumes at career sites with no response, and after attending my first Passport to Employment meeting; I had a genuine feeling of hope,” said Crumley. He credits the resources Hart and the other six volunteers with the program use along with his own initiative in helping the 60+ year-old creative marketer hear the words, “the job is yours!” from a hiring manager. “For people who have not looked for a job in the past seven or eight years, forget what you used to do because it is a whole new ballgame,” says Crumley.

Hart explained the Passport to Employment program arose from a need. Hart makes an important distinction, “we are not a placement service. We are an outreach ministry.” People were unemployed or underemployed or wanted to change careers and didn’t know how. Hart, a military veteran, has reinvented his own career after spending thirty-two years and fourteen corporate relocations with Sears Roebuck & Company. “When I went to the church with this idea, they provided space and assistance. Our doors are open to anyone and we provide an ecumenical experience,” said Hart. On any given Monday 35-45 people are in attendance to hear topics ranging from using social media in a job search to interviewing skills.

For Hart his new passion has become nearly a full-time volunteer job and others have come forward to share their skills, talents and experiences with the participants. Alumni like Crumley have shared Passport to Employment with others who have had similar successful results in their job search. He summed the program up by saying, “I know Earle would like to put himself out of business, but the need continue to grow.”

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