By Erika Webb
The sun climbed higher, bringing welcome warmth to the last day of 2012. Minimum-wage workers would get 12 cents more an hour starting the next morning. And people hoping for better lives in 2013 streamed into the new One-Stop Employment Center in Orange City.
Worry marked their faces.
One-Stop manager Joe Hancock and a 34-member team want people to rest assured help is there for the asking.
As of Dec. 19, "there" is a brand new, 14,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility at 846 Saxon Blvd. in Orange City Marketplace.
Four training rooms, two conference rooms, 24 computers, expanding workshops and "blazing-fast Internet" only scratch the surface of improvements being made to the center since it started in DeLand, Mr. Hancock said.
Even iPads eventually will be available for use in online workshops.
"We can serve the customers better and that's what the whole deal is about," he said. "There are no time limits (on the computers) and no waiting."
From the huge reception area to the privacy-centered career zone to the training room with high-definition projectors to the well-trained and, in many cases, been-there-done-that staff, there is a sense that meeting needs is a high priority, and a feeling of understanding among the ranks.
Two formerly jobless members of the One-Stop staff are Kelly Clark and Dawn Koscoe. Mr. Hancock said Ms. Koscoe had been laid off twice in six months. She and Mr. Hancock met in a workshop and he thought: who better to be One-Stop's workshops facilitator? Ms. Koscoe is the Next Step to Success workshop presenter, and Mr. Hancock said she does a fantastic job, partly because she's been in the shoes of her audience.
Next Step to Success is one of many re-employment workshops which are available both at One-Stop facilities and online. Mr. Hancock said he urges everyone to participate in this overview of services, which informs job seekers about scholarships, other workshops, computer classes and training opportunities.
Ms. Clark, a One-Stop customer service representative, was "struggling to look for a job," Mr. Hancock said.
"You can tell the ones who are going to find a job," he added. "They are so diligent. People want to go back to work, and just can't figure out why they can't."
He said he was happy to be able to offer Ms. Clark a position with One-Stop.
Her happy face and eagerness revealed Ms. Clark feels mutually fortunate.
In fact, all staff members at One-Stop were all-smiles and seemed happily engaged with clients or busily researching resources, even though it was Monday morning.
A peek into one of the workshops revealed popular instructor Chester MacNorton amusing the class. He uses comedy and relatable scenarios to help his students think and, therefore achieve, success. His perpetual grin indicates he amuses himself in the process.
Mr. Hancock said he hardly knows how to act with this much space around him. The first move last summer was necessitated by the growth of another business, Frontier Communications, in the south DeLand shopping center where One-Stop had been housed for 15 years.
"We moved because Frontier was expanding. We didn't want to move, but that (expansion) allowed 100 more people into the work force," he said.
For the past six months, One-Stop was crowded into a temporary 9,500-square-foot space in the Marketplace center, the permanent move delayed by four months of "not unexpected" glitches. One-Stop's DeLand office was less than half the size of the new one at 5,500 square feet, Mr. Hancock said.
"We've been shoulder to shoulder. We're not used to having this much space."
The new facility houses federal, state and private industry.
The much larger and more individual-oriented career zone will have its own receptionist and service staff so clients won't have to clamor around the front desk or get online assistance in a crowded, noisy room.
The business service unit houses staff members who work one on one with employers to facilitate on- the-job or employer-work training.
Case management specialists are available to help clients in comfortable and confidential quarters. Career planners assist in determining which jobs may best suit individuals and what schooling is available for particular career paths. And two representatives are available to help displaced veterans with "anything they may need," Mr. Hancock said.
There is staff in place to help those in need with the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"We serve as therapists, mentors, teachers, you name it. We have heard every story you can imagine," Mr. Hancock said. "People don't realize what these employees go through in a day. It breaks our hearts to hear the stories, but we do what we can to get them back on their feet."
For those employees, who Mr. Hancock said have never had a proper on-site retreat, a real break room.
"In DeLand we had a crying porch in the back. When it all got to be too much they'd go out and have a cry, then come back to work," he said.
An enormous computer lab with separate entrance will be used for basic computer training.
"Being mid-way between DeLand and Deltona, we seem to have a completely different clientele," Mr. Hancock said. "We're seeing many more people than in DeLand. Can I explain it? No, but the last vestiges of people on unemployment are panicking and afraid. It will help them so much to have basic computer skills."
Mr. Hancock said One-Stop wants people to know how to use the state's virtual recruiter and skill sets website, Employ Florida, to its fullest. Obtaining basic computer skills will make using the site easier.
"The federal government changed the Employ Florida password, requiring a capital letter, a number and one character. Many don't know what a character is," he said. "We want to help them because Employ Florida has every website and every newsletter for jobs, and it's free."
Getting to One-Stop in West Volusia has never been easier, either.
"There's a bus transfer station right over there," Mr. Hancock said, pointing to the edge of the parking lot. "And I look for them to start stopping right in front of here."
Mr. Hancock spent 22 years in healthcare administration. He is a "there-is-no-I-in-team" kind of person who appreciates each member of his staff. Describing himself as a "hands on manager" he said he prefers being out in the center, interacting with employees and clients, to being in his office.
"I love what I do now because it's not about making money. What I do here is sincere. We help people," he said. "All it takes is one person to come by and say thanks and it makes your whole day. We'll go to any extreme to help people."
Dolores Bilia, who operates the switchboard for three One-Stop centers, shares Mr. Hancock's philosophy. He said she will actually go through call logs and return calls made to the center while she was out or at lunch.
"She is the most helpful individual," Mr. Hancock said.
The Orange City One-Stop Employment Center will host a grand opening from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18. Those planning to attend are asked to call Jennifer Gosling at (386) 323-7074 by Friday, Jan. 11.
"We provide so many services and add to them as we see fit," Mr. Hancock said. "We try to help everyone in the broad spectrum, everyone."
Contact Orange City One-Stop Employment by calling (386) 561-9550.