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Story #36 - Char Johnson

  Char Johnson has a soft spot for senior citizens so she truly enjoys her job as a dietary aide at GracePointe Crossing Presbyterian Homes & Services in Cambridge where she has worked since August 2015.

“I really love the residents,” said Char sitting at her own kitchen table before heading off to work the afternoon/early evening shift. “I take their food orders and serve them their meals. It brightens their day.  I like having a set routine at work – I know what to do and I like it.”

Char was originally referred to Rise’s Employment Innovations program for employment and housing support services by her Isanti County financial aid worker. She was living with a friend and having a hard time finding a good job because of her medical conditions.

“Like clockwork, every week Paul [Kuhlmann, a Rise housing support specialist] met with me to help,” said Char, who has two sons, ages 16 and 19. “We filled out housing applications for subsidized housing and when I couldn’t come up with the $800 deposit I needed once we found a place to live, Rise helped me with that, too.”

Once her housing was stabilized, Paul referred Char to vocational services to assist with obtaining employment.  She began meeting with Maeta Burns-Penn, a Rise employment service team leader, weekly to sort out her employment goals.

Char had been struggling with re-entering employment as she wasn’t sure if she would be able to work again. Her current job at a major equipment supplier had left her feeling frustrated and didn’t feel like a good fit for her. She wanted to work as much as she possibly could and have a positive impact so she and Maeta began exploring which fields she truly had an interest in and felt connected to. Char had decided that she wanted to work in the area of senior care because it offered her an opportunity to help other people and “…feel like I could make a difference in a person’s day.”  Char has always liked preparing meals and the sense of satisfaction in knowing people enjoyed her food, so she worked with Maeta to create a career plan to obtain part-time employment in the dietary field in a nursing home. The position at GracePointe was a perfect fit for Char.

With some financial support through Region 7E’s Employment Support Fund, Char was able to get assistance with clothing, shoes and gas for work so that she would have a successful transition to work.

In addition, Char’s car needed expensive repair work done if she was going to be able to get to and from work reliably. She appreciated getting funding from Rise’s Advancing Lives Fund for that.

Char says she looks forward to many more years of work at GracePointe Crossing. “Having support from Rise at first really made a difference. Paul and Maeta helped me see that my life could be a lot better than it was and now it is.”

Char and her sons have lived in Cambridge Square since April 2015 with their two cats, Arthur and Spooky. “They recently did a full remodeling on most of the units,” Char noted. “It really feels like home.”