Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center offers education, training and job placement services

Center helps all education levels By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • December 22, 2009 SEASON TO GIVE: Part of a continuing series In fewer than two years, Lisa Greer went from a homeless addict on the streets of Memphis to a successful case manager using her past to help others. Greer, a Memphis native, moved to Nashville last summer in a last-chance effort to escape an addiction to crack cocaine. "I couldn't stay clean," she said. "I'd go through rehab and do fine for about a year, then I'd relapse. I would go to the same old places and fall into the old lifestyle over and over again." Greer spent five years battling the drug. At 39, a boyfriend introduced the mother of two to powder cocaine. Over time, Greer began using crack cocaine. "It didn't take long for me to lose everything," she said. "I became homeless and I had no one. My family refused contact with me because of all the horrible things I'd done." In June 2008, a desperate Greer came to Nashville in search of rehabilitation. While on a waiting list for the Magdalene program, she was referred to the Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing education, training and job placement services to those ready and willing to build better lives for themselves, for computer software training. According to Executive Director Helena Farrow, more than 200 people have been helped by the agency so far this year. Services offered include GED education, computer software training in Microsoft Office and job counseling and placement at no cost. Classes are offered each day and are self-paced, Farrow said. Many clients referred "We have people come in at all levels of education," Farrow said. "Some come in at really low levels and others come in ready to take the GED exam, but everyone works with the instructors based on individual needs." Most of the center's clients were referred by other agencies, such as the United Way and drug rehabilitation programs, she said. "We don't just provide these people with services," Farrow said. "We support them emotionally and help them build self-esteem. "A lot of them come in not believing in themselves. They've never really accomplished anything because they've never had any support. We try to be the shoulder for them to lean on." Greer knows the feeling well. "When I got to Nashville, I didn't believe there was a future for me," she said. "But, God put me in the right place at the right time. The people who work here have become my family. "They prayed with me. They listened to me. They didn't judge me." Six months after Greer came to the center, she had graduated from her training course in computer software and was working through a residential transitional housing program at Recovery Community. In May, she began working as a case manager at Recovery Community. Today, she has rekindled the relationship with her two sons, ages 29 and 23, and grandchildren. And she dreams of becoming a licensed drug and alcohol counselor before returning home to Memphis to found her own recovery program. "Addiction was an awful thing to go through, but I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't gone through it," she said. "As a society, so many of us are afraid to ask for help when we need it. We try to look for the answers ourselves and when we hit a wall, we give up. "Don't be afraid to ask for help."

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