Staten Island Parish Group Has Long History of Assisting Job Seekers With Mentoring and Support

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St. Clare’s Employment Group, a ministry of St. Clare parish on Staten Island, helps church and community members in their job search endeavors, which during these Covid-19 times can be overwhelming.

“We sent out information about employment resources and computer training,” Arthur Merlino, the group’s director, told CNY in discussing extra email contacts that began in March when the effects of Covid-19 took hold.

The emails went to people who had contacted the parish for job search advice, and the extra efforts continue. Merlino and his co-organizers hope to resume inperson group sessions and one-toone advice meetings in the coming months, with health safety measures in place.

“We’ve also been sending out health insurance information, and we’ve sent out quite a bit of information about the CARES Act (federal economic stimulus), to be sure that people apply for unemployment insurance, and to make sure they knew about the CARES Act provisions,” Merlino said. “This is not only open to the St. Clare community, and not only open to people from the other Catholic churches, but open to the entire community.

“We try to help through mentoring and networking, and support and encouragement, for people to maintain their motivation and improve their skills.”

” Over the years, program participants have come from other New York City boroughs and from New Jersey.

In the 25 years since the ministry was established, Merlino said, the group has reached close to 2,000 people. The contacts have included in-person group sessions and oneto-one meetings, as well as phone and email contacts. The program also facilitates mental health counseling.

The employment advice sessions, which began as weekly gatherings, became monthly 10 years ago.

Merlino, a retiree, was employed at a workforce center in the Bronx and with the New York State Department of Labor. He took over as group director 15 years ago. Margaret Flynn was the director for the first 10 years.

The St. Clare’s Employment Group offers its services free of charge. It was founded in the summer of 1995 by several parishioners led by Mrs. Flynn, a now-retired Brooklyn College communications professor who lives in Florida— and with firm support and pastoral approval from then-pastor Msgr. Joseph P. Murphy, who died in May at age 91. Merlino joined as a group leader two months after the program began. Catherine Feeks, a retired life insurance supervisor who is now the parish sacristan, is a founding organizer.

Here are a couple of sessions the St. Clare’s Employment Group has held:

“Overcoming Obstacles in Getting Your Next Job,” presented by Nancy Gentile, career and vocational rehabilitation specialist, New York State Education Department.

“Looking for a Job Was My FullTime Job,” presented by Edie Coniglione, legal assistant, Staten Island University Hospital.

Organizers ask participants to bring copies of their resumes to meetings. They welcome employers and community members who may have job leads or other information that may prove helpful to attendees. When in-person meetings are held, they take place in the St. Clare’s Presentation Center Dining Room, 169 Lindenwood Road, on the third Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Louis Maresca, a St. Clare parishioner, attended group sessions when he was out of work 18 years ago. He used the job search skills he obtained and later landed work in finance in Manhattan. Over the years, he has served as a program presenter several times

“I’ve started every meeting with prayer,” Maresca, a married father of three, told CNY about the way he begins his presentations. He is grateful for the program, and happy to share his knowledge with others.

“I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been out of work too. It makes everybody realize that we’re in this together.”

Anyone with questions or who would like to initiate phone or email contact for job search advice or guidance may call the St. Clare parish rectory at (718) 984-7873.

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