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Hand-up, not a hand-out

HOBBSVILLE — The goal of the Gates County Empowerment Center (GCEC) can be found within its name.

For Tonja Fisher and her husband, Dr. Lewis Fisher Jr., who founded the center, empowering people with the resources they need to enhance their life builds a better community.

“We are really wanting to help out,” said Mrs. Fisher, Vice President of GCEC. “We just want to empower Gates County.”

At the GCEC (located at the intersection of Highways 32 and 37 just outside of Hobbsville), visitors will find an array of services from tax information to health services to job placement services.

This week the center will highlight the latter from July 26 to August 6. Fisher said from 9-5, Monday through Friday, volunteers will be on hand to help those searching for work.

“There will be help with filling out job applications, resume assistance, interview techniques and etiquette,” she said.

Job seekers will be able to fill out applications for businesses that are currently hiring. The center’s eight computers can also be used in job searching. Fisher added the center hopes to add 14 more computers soon. Promoting entrepreneurship and business plans is another aspect GCEC is willing to assist with.

Fisher referred to the need for helping people find jobs, noting the poverty in the county, recent lay-offs due to the economy as well as the unemployment rate. According to the North Carolina Employment Commission, unemployment currently stands at 7.6 percent in Gates County.

“The self esteem needs to be there to build a strong community,” said Fisher.

Though the center’s job placement assistance service is always available, Fisher said by highlighting the program for the next two weeks, her and Dr. Fisher hope to promote the GCEC.

Fisher said GCEC has been a vision of her husband’s for 20 years. The couple currently lives in Virginia and Dr. Fisher serves as Senior Pastor for Blanchard’s Grove Missionary Baptist Church, where GCEC is located.

“He had a vision for the church; he just wanted to help people,” she said.

The couple has plans to find a permanent home for the GCEC and is currently looking at available buildings within the county.

The GCEC, founded in March 2009, is a non-profit organization. Fisher said the center operates solely on donations as well as volunteers to provide the services offered.

Fisher said the GCEC doesn’t replace the current services available for citizens, rather it provides a network of resources to those that are seeking assistance. She added the GCEC is always looking for programs within the county to connect people.

Some of those programs provide resources for safe house assistance, recreation, youth mentoring, elderly transportation, education, housing and social re-entry assistance. On site, GCEC often provides basic necessities such as fresh produce services from local growers with surplus and a clothing drive.

And while the mission of GCEC is advocacy, Fisher said it’s about providing knowledge to let people do it on their own and better their lives.

“We don’t want it to seem like a handout,” said Fisher. “It’s about helping (people) use the sources out there.”

To learn more about the GCEC, call (252)-465-4361 or visit their web site at www.gcecenter.org.