Florida Hernandez is working to prepare herself to look for another job.
Hernandez, 71, is training to become a videographer through a U.S. Department of Labor program aimed at getting senior citizens back in the work force. The Senior Community Service Employment Program is open to people who can answer yes to three questions: Are you 55 or older? Are you low-income? Are you unemployed?
"I'm producing videos to be presented on (Durango Community Access Television)," Hernandez said Friday during an interview at the Southwest Center for Independence, the host agency. "I do research here and I'm learning to edit at DCAT but it's going pretty slow now."
Participants in the employment program work in host agencies such as the Southwest Center for Independence, which provides job training while gaining extra help temporarily. The Department of Labor, not the host, pays the $7.28 an hour stipend that participants receive.
A host agency must be a nonprofit and provide services related to publicly owned or operated facilities and/or programs or projects of other nonprofit organizations. The length of training is open-ended, concluding when the participant can land a job on his or her own.
Hernandez, a native of New Mexico, served in the Women's Army Corps briefly, then held civil-service jobs at bases where her soldier husband was stationed. After their divorce, she ran a restaurant, sold real estate, solar-power systems and jewelry. She also wrote a column for the now-defunct Denver Weekly newspaper.
Judy Campbell herself was unemployed when she was hired in June as a regional field rep for the employment program.
As such, she covers 12 counties - Dolores, San Miguel, San Juan, Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta, Hinsdale, Mineral, Rio Grande, Conejos, Costilla and Saguache.
"The (program) has been around 40 years but it didn't get much attention," Campbell said. "I'm making the rounds trying to recruit hosts and participants."
In La Plata County, she said, she has two SCSEP trainees at Habitat for Humanity and has requests for trainees by the American Cancer Society, Head Start, the Boys and Girls Club and the Ignacio Public Library. She's having a hard time getting the word out to seniors, however.