First State Community Action Agency will commemorate National Employ Older Workers Week by honoring two people with local roots during a special event Wednesday at its headquarters in Georgetown.
Finding a job can be difficult for workers at any age.
But the process can be especially daunting for those 55 and older.
“A lot of times those workers have already been retired for a while and have had a spouse who has passed away or other difficulty that requires them to get back into the workforce,” explained Roy Hazzard, who manages First State Community Action Agency’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).
To help older workers polish up on their work skills and find gainful employment, the state and federally-funded program administered by First State provides older workers with part-time, minimum wage jobs at a variety of nonprofit agencies and pubic organizations, including senior centers, schools and libraries.
In recognition of National Employ Older Workers Week from Sept. 23 to Sept. 29, First State will honor workers and employers who participate in the program during a special event in Georgetown on Wednesday.
During the event, Georgetown resident Irma E. Frazier will be recognized as the oldest participant enrolled in the program.
The 84-year-old great-grandmother who previously retired from a job with RCA in Moorestown, N.J., first enrolled in the program in 2000 after her husband became ill.
After working with the Oak Orchard CHEER Center, she is now employed as an office clerk trainee at Sussex Community Crisis Housing Services in Georgetown.
“The program gave me an opportunity to experience new jobs and skills that I never did before,” Frazier said. “My current placement not only gives me an opportunity to experience office skills, but also a firsthand experience of assisting homeless individuals.”
Douglas L. Cannon, a native of Georgetown and who currently lives in Milton, also will be honored Wednesday as Sussex County’s Outstanding Older Worker.
The 59-year-old grandfather of 12 earned his GED in 1970 before working as a truck driver for nearly 30 years.
After being laid off from his last full-time job, Cannon searched for employment for two years before enrolling in SCSEP in 2011.
He worked part-time for the Milford Senior Center before finding full-time, unsubsidized work as a van driver for the Cape Henlopen School District. He also continues to work part-time for the Milford Senior Center.
Hazzard said Cannon is a great example of how older workers can provide employers with valuable service backed by their years of prior experience.
“The fact is, they bring a greater level of maturity and dependability to the job,” he said.
On Wednesday, First State’s SCSEP also will honor the Cape Henlopen School District as its employer of the year and the Milford Senior Center as its honorary host agency of the year.
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and state Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) are among the dignitaries slated to attend the event, which will begin at 9 a.m. with a continental breakfast followed by the awards ceremony.
“We’re happy to be able to provide a program that gives the older person an opportunity to work and earn a living, help them learn new job skills and, in turn, feel better about themselves,” said Bernice Edwards, the executive director of First State Community Action Agency. “Older workers are a true asset to our workforce … Everyone benefits from their labor and valuable contribution to the community.”