Nonprofit that helps white-collar unemployed will shut down in June
GO! Network, which has assisted more than 4,000 unemployed white-collar St. Louisans in the aftermath of the Great Recession, will shut down June 26 because of a lack of funding, the nonprofit’s executive director said Tuesday.
Roni Chambers, who volunteers her time as the only full-time staffer at GO! Network, made the announcement to about 100 participants at this morning’s weekly workshop.
“There just isn’t any money,’’ Chambers told the Beacon.
As the urgency of the Great Recession passed, corporate financial backing for GO! dried up, she said. While the nonprofit has continued to receive small donations -- often from grateful recipients of the program who have found work -- they are not enough to pay the bills.
Go! Network was started as a short-term intervention in the months following the financial meltdown of 2008 to help laid-off middle managers from local corporations such as Anheuser-Busch, which was the major initial donor. St. Patrick Center organized the program with the assistance of the United Way, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment and the local business community.
Chambers helped lead the program as it made the transition from a corporate-backed initiative into a stand-alone nonprofit organization. St. Patrick Center has remained the group’s largest in-kind donor, providing downtown office and meeting space at its Catholic Charities Conference Center. Other in-kind sponsors have provided legal and marketing support.
Between 75 and 125 people currently attend the weekly workshops on Tuesdays. Those programs will continue through June 26; a schedule of presentations is available on the Go! website.
Chambers believes that Go! still has much to offer professionals and managers trying to adapt to the U.S. economy’s “new normal,” where unemployment has stabilized at around 8 percent. In recent months, Go! had broadened its mission to serve younger job-seekers and to help military veterans make the transition to civilian corporate jobs with its GO! Vets program.
“The unemployment rate is down from when we started this, but I don’t think it will ever be where it used to be when times were good,” Chambers said. “This isn’t about the unemployment crisis any more. This is about re-learning how to find a job in a world that is driven by technology. As our country transitions, we are teaching people how to transition their skills from the jobs that they had to the jobs of the future. And we’re teaching them how to find the next job in this world that’s flat and happens through social media.”
A news release about the GO! shutdown estimates that 80 percent of the 4,300 people who have taken advantage of its services and programs have landed new jobs.
Chambers said the goal had been to attract financial support for GO! to enable it to become a permanent community resource.
“It needs roots, and it doesn’t have them,’’ she said, adding that the program could still continue if a sponsor were to step forward. “We get donations, but it’s not enough to do everything.”
Chambers, 56, is a former human resources executive at Anheuser-Busch. She said she will be taking her own advice: Using her networking skills to find a new job.
After InBev bought A-B in 2008, Chambers had the task of laying off workers before she was laid off herself in March 2010. The irony was never lost on Chambers, who, in recent months has been paying program expenses for GO! out of her own pocket.
“I have to make a living,’’ she said.