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Library Foundation Receives Grant To Assist Job Seekers

From left are: Wayne Crocker, library director; Robert C. Walker, board chair; Tonisha Harrison, Bank of America; Victor Branch, Bank of America; Cindy Morgan, campaign co-chair; Mayor Brian Moore; and the Rev. Andrew J. White Sr., campaign co-chair

PETERSBURG – The Petersburg Library Foundation received a $50,000 Safety Net Grant from Bank of America Monday to assist in addressing pressing issues surrounding the unemployed and underemployed of the city.

Pictured: Victor Branch, Bank of America Senior Vice President Market Manager - Virginia

Victor Branch, senior vice president and market manager for Bank of America in Virginia, said that the grant is part of the bank’s continuing philanthropic mission in the state, particularly following the collapse of the economy in 2008. Branch said that between 2008 and 2009, the bank provided more than $17 million in grants to assist in emergency situations to prevent homelessness, hunger and unemployment.

“Currently, unemployment is a very big problem,” Branch said. He added that while the state currently boasts a relatively low 6.4 percent unemployment compared to the nation as a whole, Petersburg’s numbers are much higher. Based on the most recent numbers, Petersburg has an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent.

Branch said that the A.P. Hill Branch of the Petersburg City Library, where the check presentation was made, has served as a catalyst for job seekers in the city. The hope is the grant will increase the workforce development for the city.

Wayne Crocker, director of library services for the city, said that it is in fact only through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a couple of years ago that the branch is still open.

Crocker said that two years ago there was no money budgeted for the A.P. Hill Branch Library, located on the second floor of the A.P. Hill Community Center on Halifax Street. Before that budget was finalized, the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was received.

“The No. 1 variable was service to low-income residents,” Crocker said. The only branch library that qualified for the grant was A.P. Hill. The grant allowed the library to transform itself from just a library into a job search center with new computers, printers and resources to assist those seeking employment.

Part of that transformation included the purchase of several computers.

The center has been successful as well, Crocker said, adding that several people have been hired based on resumes they developed while at the center or applications filed online from the branch library.

“This grant will let us continue to offer those services to a greater degree,” Crocker said.

That includes more resources for job-readiness training.

A workforce development specialist will provide one-on-one support for program participants, according to a press release about the grant. Additionally, there will be access to career books, continued access to Internet databases and career supplies. Other services, including literacy instruction and GED preparation will be provided through a referral network.   Submitted by Progress-Index staff writer F.M. Wiggins – November 29, 2011

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