A Conversation With Trina Fleming, Chief Operating Officer of WHW

Interviewed by Lori A. Sinanian

The WHW Organization (formerly known as Women Helping Women) is a non-profit organization and an effective vocational program that focuses on offering assistance to underemployed and unemployed individuals so they gain life skills with the end goal of finding a job. The intention of promoting life skills, in the case of WHW, is to help people become ideal candidates for potential job opportunities. WHW is a safe space for job-seekers who are looking to get educated in the services and training the organization provides such as: “Overcoming Obstacles,” “Confidence Building,” Resume Development,” and “Mastering the Interview.” The organization’s objective is to bring people back on their feet after they have lost their jobs. As a result, job-seekers will gain a new point of view and everlasting skills that will become an integral part of their lives.

Why does your organization particularly target women?

When we started, we started with the mission of helping women survivors of domestic violence get back into the workforce by providing professional apparel. But then in 2008, we were asked by agencies that we were partnering with, “Could you please start serving men?” It was a very hard decision. In fact, we lost a couple of board members because they were so focused on women, but I think by helping men, you are helping women because you are helping husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles. It’s still helping women, but we started to just go by WHW [instead of Women Helping Women]. In 2008, we started serving men and now 40% of the people we help are men. When you look at the workshops, computer training, job placement assistance, and the employment retention support, 40% of that is men.

How do you prepare people to have a stable career? What does your organization offer?

It’s in five basic categories. First, employment readiness workshops, and that consists of everything from confidence building to success strategies. We also do resume development, mastering the interview, networking, personal branding, linked in, advanced LinkedIn, optimizing LinkedIn, and we also have our computer training, so we do all of Microsoft office, word, excel, powerpoint, outlook. We also do QuickBooks, and we just started salesforce. So we do a lot of basic digital skills that help people.

The bell that gets rung when you get a job.

Do you accept every person or do you turn away people too? And what would be the reason for why you would turn away someone?

Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed for whatever reason is more than welcome to come and receive our services. The only time we turn someone away is if they are not actually looking for a job or coming from a position where, mentally and emotionally, they’re not really ready to get a job because then it becomes distracting to our other job-seekers. It’s not so much that we turn people away because of the kind of job they want or their financial status, but it’s usually because they are not in a place of maturity to really go out there and find a job.

So I noticed from your website that you have a slogan: “A good job changes everything. It’s more than a paycheck, it’s a solution.” Can you tell me more about what that means?

I will, you know what? Did you know that there was 26,000 children in OC that are housing insecure? This is OC, it is one of the richest counties in the world. Twenty-six thousand children that are insecure for housing and mainly because their parents don’t have a good job. You know, one in four citizens in OC live in poverty and are not quite sure where their next meal is coming from. So when you look at that, yes, we could give them a meal,  and they would eat that meal, but then they don’t know where the next one’s coming from. But a good job changes all of that. Because if I have a good job—notice the word good—so we’re not pushing people to get any job, we’re pushing people to get a good job.We want our job-seekers to get the job they really want because that’s the job they’re going to be the most successful at. That’s going to be the job that they stay at, that they move up in. That job, that one job, can change everything for them. or their families, and for generations to come. It can change everything from where you live to whether your kids can stay in school. The security that kids feel when their parents are working versus the insecurity they feel when they’re not working — that insecurity is transferred to how they do in school. It permeates everything. A good job really has the potential to change everything. Having our fellow citizens employed is not just about them or their family; it’s about all of us in Orange County. That’s how we feel it changes everything.

Clothes that are donated.

I don’t want to ask what the goal is of WHW I want to ask it more specifically, what’s the goal at the end of the day, every day for WHW?

The vision for WHW, ideally, is to see everyone who wants to work in OC have a job or at least know how to get one. At the end of the day, it’s really about hearing that bell ring, knowing that every single day, all the little things that we do to help someone get a job every single day. It’s funny because I was telling a group of people that everyone who works at WHW, every staff person, every volunteer, only has one job, and that is to help people get and keep good jobs. That’s the only job we have; we might all have different responsibilities, and we might all do different parts of it, but ultimately that’s what it comes down to, is that we all have that one job. Last Friday, four people came and rang the bell; it was almost overheating.

That’s a lot of noise — a lot of noise for the right reasons.

It is a lot of noise, but that’s the noise you want to hear. Because sometimes it’s hard working for a non-profit where you never have enough time, you never have enough people, you never have enough money, you never have enough resources. It could be discouraging sometimes, because you’re working, you’re working, you’re working. But when you find someone, you saw the girl in there getting that suit, you saw her face, you heard her words, she was elated, she was excited, that’s someone who is unemployed, but she could see it: she could see herself now, “I can see myself having a job now. I can see myself in front of that employer, showing off my awesome interview look and my new interviewing skills, and I know exactly how to answer that question. I am the superhero and I am here to save the day.” So knowing that we’re actually transferring that skill to someone and that she’s going to come in one day and ring the bell because of something we did, or because of a jacket or shoes someone donated, because someone was willing to teach a class, because someone showed her something on the computer, because someone said “Wow! You look really nice today!” Just because of all those things put together, that’s what it is about at the end of the day. Someone’s going to ring the bell, someone’s going to say “Hey I got the job!”

3 Comments

  1. 三I didn’t know that so many people are under poverty condition in Orange County. Thank you sharing the information, and bravo to the hard work of WHW!

  2. Well done, Lori.

    Even living as far away as Connecticut, you wrote an interesting story based on well researched questions.

    Thank you,

    Tage

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