LIMA — Unemployment can affect anyone, but the issue is felt in the minority community. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African-Americans in Ohio was 11.6 percent in 2014, more than double the overall state rate of 5.6 percent.
To combat this trend, the Lima chapter of the NAACP has partnered with the Harding Highway Wal-Mart Supercenter to encourage current minority job seekers to seek employment at the supercenter as well as to mentoring young people preparing to enter the workforce.
“We have a high percentage of minorities in the city of Lima and such a huge problem with either no employment or underemployment,” NAACP chapter president Ronald Fails said. “Wal-Mart has reached out to us, and we want to address this.”
The Harding Highway Wal-Mart is helping to provide school supplies to minority children through a program called “Back to School, Stay in School.”
“That program is designed so kids can show up in classrooms with things like a bookbag, tablets, pencils and paper,” Fails said. “You’d be amazed at the number of kids whose parents are not in a position to support them with these simple things.”
Wal-Mart is also sponsoring a mentorship program aimed to pair young, fatherless African-American men with male mentors, perhaps some from among the store’s associates, according to store manager Patrick Azzarello.
“We’re working with other after-school programs as well, like at the Bradfield Center,” he said. “We are still just at the beginning stages of this, building a relationship that we can continue to make stronger.”
Wal-Mart also hopes to help those currently looking for work by providing entry-level positions that can lead to career advancement.
“We have the hands-on training in a number of positions,” Azzarello said. “Also, once you’re employed there, you can get discounted college education through a partnership we have with an online college. With how big Wal-Mart is, in almost any field you would want to go in, there could be a position here for you.”
Lima NAACP economic development committee chair James Smith hopes to see this intiative expand in the area.
“This could serve as a model for other companies to follow,” he said. “This is a great thing for the local chapter.”
To learn about these programs or to get help with applying at Wal-Mart, call the Lima NAACP at 419-516-1122 or call the Harding Highway Wal-Mart at 419-222-4466.