ENGLEWOOD — Christopher Erby credits a new technology center that opened in October with helping him find full-time employment at the nation's largest retailer-Walmart.
"I owe it all to to them. Now I am working and I love what I do at Walmart," said Erby, 20. "It's hard out here and when you do not have a lot of skills it's even harder. I'm glad someone other than my mother cared enough to help me find a job."
Erby, who began his new job in November, first learned about the Teamwork Englewood Community Technology Center, 815 W. 63rd St., from his mother who works as a security guard in the building. He lives with his mom in Englewood and do not have a computer to search for jobs.
"Now, when my benefits kick in next month I can get a computer with my discount," he added. "I was working part-time at this Family Dollar store (in Englewood) for two-weeks before Walmart offered me a full-time position. I hated working at the dollar store. I didn't see myself going anywhere there."
Going places is what Rosalind Moore, program manager for the center, aims to help do for everyone who walks through the center's doors.
"I grew up in Englewood and I am happy to be back doing what I love, and that's helping people," said Moore. "I get so tired of reading about all the negative things that occur in Englewood. This center is something positive and we are doing positive things here for the community."
Free services offered at the center include job readiness prep, technology classes, social service referrals, tutoring, ex-offender assistance such as GED preparation and expungment, and mentoring programs for boys and girls. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tawanna Smith, 42, is hoping the center can help her once again find full-time employment.
"I was working for a non-profit organization that Teamwork Englewood got for me but it quickly shut down," said the single mother of three. "I made $15 an hour when I worked there and that is the most money I ever made in my life."
The William R. Harper High School graduate said she wants to land a job in technology and has successfully completed a technology class at Teamwork Englewood.
"The class taught me Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In the world we live in today you have to know how to use computers and now that I do I am hoping to find another 'good' paying job," added Smith.
There are 11 employees working at the center. Deanna Woods is one of them. She runs the Golden Nugget Girls Mentoring Program she started in honor of her 11-year-old niece Siretha White, who was killed in 2006. The center also offers a summer boys basketball tournament, field trips for youth and after-school activities.
According to Moore, who graduated from Simon Guggenheim Elementary and Lindblom Math and Science Academy High School, both in Englewood, it received donated computers from Best Buy and 4,200 square feet of office space from US Bank.
"We do not pay rent but we pay all other operating expenses like electricity, Internet and phones," she said. "Best Buy donated two computers and an iPad and we received start-up costs from donations and grants."
And while the center is new, Teamwork Englewood was founded 10 years ago. Due to limited space technology classes are held down the street at Kennedy-King College, added Moore.
Employment Specialist Limarcus Saffold said he hopes as word gets out about their services more people will take advantage of the center, especially its job readiness program where job leads are provided.
On average, 10 people a day visit the center, according to Moore, who added that its goal this year is to attract more youth to the center by fostering relationships with schools.
"Our future is determined by the success of our youth. That is what we want to protect, build and invest more in as the year goes on," said Moore.