mel watt visit
By Steve Huffman
Patti Schwendinger was updating her resume Monday at Goodwill’s Career Connections Center when she heard a commotion.
She turned to find Congressman Mel Watt and his entourage visiting the center, located at 1923 S. Main St., Salisbury.
“I was wondering what was going on behind me,” Schwendinger said, laughing as she spoke.
She and Watt spoke for several minutes. Schwendinger, a Salisbury resident, told Watt she has a pair of degrees ó one in nursing and another in occupational science.
She’s retired from the Navy, Schwendinger said, and looking for work.
Watt (D-NC) listened to all Schwendinger has to offer, then observed, “You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job, then.”
Hopefully not, and encouragement like that from a congressman is probably exactly what Schwendinger and other job seekers need.
Watt visited Career Connections as part of his 11th annual Trading Places work period. The event, which continues through Wednesday, gives Watt the opportunity to work alongside citizens in communities throughout his 12th Congressional District.
Monday morning, Watt visited a homeless shelter in Charlotte. After departing Salisbury, he traveled to Kannapolis, where he donated blood at Mount Mitchell Methodist Church.
Other visits made by the congressman included those to a construction site, a 911 call center, a vineyard and a credit union.
The fact that Watt mingled among his constituents impressed Schwendinger and others.
“I’m just thrilled,” she said of the congressman’s visit. “You kind of get the attitude these days that no one cares. This shows that some politicians still do.”
Maryse Walker was equally impressed with Watt’s visit. Like Schwendinger, she was working on her resume when Watt interrupted her to speak.
Walker, a Spencer resident, said she’s worked previously as a lab technician at Georgetown University Hospital just outside Washington, D.C.
When Watt heard that Walker had experience as a lab technician, he immediately perked up and turned to one of his assistants. Watt told his assistant to be sure that Walker had the name of the individual at Rowan Regional Medical Center who heads the personnel department.
“She’s worked as a lab technician and they’re looking for lab technicians,” Watt said. “Maybe it’s just a matter of getting them together.”
Watt said visits like those he made Monday ó and will continue making through Wednesday ó are part of an effort to reach his constituents, listen to their concerns and, ultimately, take their views and concerns back to Washington.
“Whenever you meet people in their own settings, they’re so much more willing to open up,” Watt said moments after concluding his conversation with Walker.He said that in the 11 years he’s been involved with Trading Places, the event has grown far more informative than he’d ever imagined.
“At every stop we’ve made, I’ve learned something new,” Watt said. “It just reinforces why we’re doing this.”
Career Connections is a Goodwill of Rowan County job resource center that opened in April. The nonprofit center, which helps people who are unemployed or under-employed, held its grand opening just a few weeks ago.
Sherry Carpenter, vice president of Workforce Development Services for Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, was among a contingent of staffers who welcomed Watt to the center.
“This is part of Goodwill’s overall mission,” she said of the center, which offers career counseling, Internet and e-mail access for job searches, a community resource room, interviewing skills assistance, resume assistance and job readiness seminars.
“We’re able to give back to the community,” Carpenter continued. “We help these people become productive citizens.”
Watt seemed to like what he heard. He asked where the funding for the center came from.
Carpenter told him that the center was 100 percent Goodwill funded, meaning that individuals who make donations to or purchases from Goodwill stores have the opportunity to see the fruits of their labors.
“We like the idea of opening the doors to anyone unemployed or under-employed,” Carpenter said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman @salisburypost.com.