PATERSON – Eileen Marrero started with CUMAC’s Pathways to Work program a couple of years ago when she was going through a rough time in her life. The program, designed to provide critical job skills and resume boosting opportunities to help participants move on to employment, was Marrero’s hope to finding new work. After 20 years of working in administration, she lost her job and struggled to find a new one. With a five-year-old at home, all Marrero wanted was to go back to work to provide for her family.
While Marrero sharpened her job skills and searched for work, bills started to pile up and she eventually lost her home. With no options in sight, she spoke with Isaiah, CUMAC’s Case Manager.
“I was contacting shelters trying to get in and nobody had room. Isaiah got on the phone and started making calls. It was urgent because I needed somewhere to go that night. I had nowhere to go” said Marrero. “He ended up getting me in a shelter that same night. Thank God for him that I didn’t have to spend a day in the street with my son, because that’s what would’ve happened.”
Marrero stayed in the shelter for a couple of months and bounced around for awhile after that, finding different places to stay while she got back on her feet. She remembers walking on the highway to get to interviews, regularly asking for rides, and often taking several buses to get where she needed to go. It was one of the scariest times of her life. She had always been able to take care of her family but suddenly at 40 her whole world turned upside down.
Fortunately, Marrero never lost hope, and thanks to CUMAC she never had to deal with her struggles alone. CUMAC was there to provide food, support, and guidance through it all with invaluable services.
“The fact that you have people here that care and they’re willing to listen, that really makes a big difference,” she said.
Marrero kept applying for jobs with no luck, but through it all she stayed positive, worked hard and learned as much as possible. CUMAC staff took notice and when a position became available in their office several months later, Marrero was immediately recommended by several team members.
“I’m going to give you 150%” Marrero said in her interview. Since being hired, she’s been doing just that, quickly becoming an asset to the CUMAC team, assisting with everything from deliveries and scheduling to data entry and programs. With many Pathways participants facing unemployment, hunger and other difficulties, Marrero is also using her experience to help support others around the building.
“They know they can talk to me” she said.
Reflecting on the last few years and the journey she’s faced, Marrero is happy to be in a good place in her life again. When asked about Pathways, and if there’s anything her time with CUMAC has taught her, she smiles. “I learned that there are still people that truly care and want to help” she said. “For a long time the doors were just slamming in my face, or at least it felt that way. Me being here made me realize that there are still people that care, because so many people here have helped me along the way. It’s a good feeling to be around people who really care. Now me being part of the team, I can pay it forward.”
With Marrero’s assistance, CUMAC is enhancing the Pathways to Work program to provide additional opportunities for participants to learn critical job skills needed to build a brighter future. In addition to hands-on learning opportunities, participants will receive access to workshops on resume writing, job interviewing, computer literacy and accessing social services in addition to onsite tutoring for college readiness and GED programs. The staff is also working hard to ensure that all participants have the support they need at all times through CUMAC’s programs and different community resources.
To find out more about CUMAC and Pathways to Work visit cumac.org