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Support sought for women's resource center

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By Nita Brown

Iris Hinckley has a vision, and she’s rallying women from the community who share it and want to make it a reality.

Her vision? To establish a resource center for the women of Lancaster County.

On Aug. 13, about 25 women gathered at Charley’s Cafe in downtown Lancaster to hear about her vision.

“Our goal is to prepare women to be a cut above in the job search market,” Hinckley said.

The center would offer job-search assistance, resume preparation, referral services for job training and possibly in-house computer skills training. At the center, women would be able to prepare for the interview process with practice sessions and coaching in professional conduct and appearance.

Additional assistance would include cosmetic makeover classes and getting interview clothing from the center’s “clothes closet.”

Under the center’s umbrella, Hinckley also sees a battered women’s shelter and a child-care clearing house, where participants could arrange for baby-sitting while they are on an interview, with help from volunteers and by bartering with each other for time.

If that sounds like a big umbrella and a big project, it is, but Hinckley believes it’s doable, if the community works together.

“I volunteered for several years working with a similar group in Houston and it was made possible by support from all over the community,” Hinckley said.

Retired registered nurse Joan Crawford, who recently moved here from New York, shared her experience volunteering with a Dress for Success program in which  women were coached on how to dress for interviews, proper etiquette and resume preparation.

“The problems we have here are common world-wide,” Crawford said. “What worked in New York can work here.”

Pam Giardello, a grant-writer at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, said the job-search market has changed.

“Certification in a skill is now more important than a college degree,” she said.

Hinckley said she plans to continue regular meetings at least once a month for all who are interested.

Hinckley would like to see a “parent” nonprofit organization take up the challenge of starting a resource center for the women.

Participation from other nonprofit groups, community service groups, churches and volunteers will be vital to the success of the center, she said.

If you’re interested in helping or want more information on  Hinckley’s plans, contact her at  283-1863.