The single mother of four has one goal — to teach her children that they can be self-sufficient, no matter what the obstacles may be.
Thanks to the Richmond County Work First Program, her determination to support her family, and the opportunity to work for one of Richmond County’s largest employers, Watkins is well on her way to showing her children they too can succeed.
“As a single mother, I want to show them that you don’t have to depend on the system,” Watkins said. “I want to take care of my children, and I want to do it to the best of my ability.”
Work First Employment Services Supervisor Linda Collins said Watkins is just one of the success stories she has seen since working with the program at the Richmond County Department of Social Services. And Watkins has thrived since beginning employment at Perdue Farms in Rockingham.
During her first week on the job, Watkins out produced co-workers who had been on the job for more than a year, said Travis Billingsley, Human Resources Representative for Perdue. She has also been recognized for her hard work twice since joining the company.
It’s because of employees like Watkins, who are given the tools to be successful on the job through Work First, that Perdue maintains a relationship with the program, Collins said. But even Work First can’t produce success stories alone. It takes partnerships with agencies such as the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and with Richmond Community College to truly make a difference in people’s lives and the county’s workforce as a whole.
“We’re very fortunate to have two partnering agencies that are doing such a good job,” Billingsley said, referring to Work First and Vocational Rehab. “Not only do these programs help Perdue, but they help the entire community.”
Accomplishments in the Work First program are due to its partnerships with other agencies.
“Work First has been successful in Richmond County due to the collaboration of our community partners,” said Lee Anne Sago, family services program manager. “Collaboration and teamwork allow our program to meet the family at the point of their need while assisting the family in developing a strong, healthy foundation for the future.”
Business Relations Representative Melissa Flynn of Vocational Rehab said she enjoys a great relationship with local employers as well as Work First.
“Perdue, in particular, has opened doors for people who maybe haven’t had a lot of hope,” Flynn said. “These folks have a desire to do more, and through these partnerships we’re able to see them be successful and self-sufficient.”
Director Ella Bartlett of the Hermitage Retirement Center echoed Billingsley’s comments on the Work First Program, and elaborated on the importance of RCC to the training of Richmond County’s workforce.
Bartlett has been working with Collins for around a year, and has hired a number of Work First participants. One of the unique aspects of working with the program has been the opportunity for job seekers to gain experience by volunteering for local agencies. Not only does that benefit businesses, but it also gives potential employees the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge about potential employers.
To participate in Work First, clients must agree to several responsibilities.
To become independent, it’s vital for participants to work toward gaining employment. In addition to furthering their education, clients have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience by volunteering.
“If I have a client who is interested in office work, I’ll do my best to place them in that area,” Collins said. “Through volunteer work, they’re able to see if that’s the best fit for them while also learning on-the-job skills.”