s a group of volunteers from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church recently sat at tables in a hallway office, it seemed fitting that a row of recycling bins rested just behind them.

Because these people work in a special kind of recycling — helping people transition from one job to another, or maybe even one calling or career to another, especially when workers feel discarded or cast aside.

That’s the aim of the church’s free employment support ministry that began in 2008.

“God has a perfect plan for our lives,” said ministry founder Steve Fushelberger, adding that he believes that plan includes one’s working life.

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The program has helped 180 seekers find work, or more fitting work than what they’re currently doing.

Candidates have ranged from those with GEDs to Ph.D.s, from rookie factory workers to vice presidents, from those just released from jail to those just released from firms’ downsizing. The program’s assistance reaches far beyond St. Peter’s to even those with no church affiliation or firm spiritual belief and to those living well beyond Indiana.

“What this shows is the process works for anyone,” Fushelberger said. “It is the same flight plan and same networking connections, but simply populated with different content, based on the individual’s background, experience, capabilities and desires.”

The process worked just last month to help downsized and jobless Debbie Arnholt find an office manager position in a matter of days with the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District.

“Without the (ministry’s) help on my résumé and cover letter, I never could have done this,” Arnholt said.

Plus, ministry volunteer Rita Wehmeier conducted an extensive mock interview with Arnholt two days before the job candidate faced the real thing.

Fushelberger felt like God nudged him to launch the effort after he moved here from Carmel, where he formed a similar church outreach several years after he lost a high-powered marketing position with United Airlines in 2002. Fushelberger and others offer help from résumé writing to networking to mock interviews. The program provides emotional support as well, including counseling if needed through the church’s CARE ministry.

“The success is truly all God’s doing,” Fushelberger said. “We’re just willing vessels.”

Some people in today’s challenging job market come to the volunteers “almost hat in hand, like they’re begging for a job. We help them understand that they’re interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing them.”

Some candidates have landed posts in as quickly as a few days. Others have had to persist for nearly a year.

Most ministry volunteers such as Kelly Hendrickson have faced a job search in the past decade. Most realize that requires some disconcerting vulnerability.

“We understand that it’s so hard to ask for help,” Kelly said. “I know I myself was not very good at it.”

But the help itself seems more than good. The Rev. Mark Teike, St. Peter’s longtime pastor, supports the effort wholeheartedly.

“They really do great work,” Teike said. “They have a great team effort.”

Steering committee member Matt White and Fushelberger agree that getting job seekers to rethink their work experience and its real value to potential employers often is job one.

“Most people tend to be their own worst critic,” White said. “And they have a hard time praising themselves.”

Fushelberger tells seekers that they and the ministry team must find a way to show employers “that they are a lower-risk, higher-value hire than anyone else. Because the biggest fear of most hiring managers (we deal with) is making a bad hire.”

He also understands that job applicants hope to avoid a bad fit in a new post. So they help seekers research companies, their staff and other variables to ensure proper and wise placement.

“If you find yourself undertaking a job search,” Fushelberger said, “we can help you be most effective in the shortest amount of time in finding what you want.”

How the ministry helps

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church’s employment support ministry volunteers meet at 9:30 a.m. the first, third and fifth Sundays in Room 2117 of the church, 719 Fifth St.

They provide free, hands-on help including:

  • Writing and editing a quick-read resume.
  • Writing cover letters.
  • Mock interviews.
  • Structured networking assistance.
  • Confidence building.
  • Creating a 30-second “elevator speech” to market oneself.
  • Prayer (if wanted) every step of the way during the job search.

Information: Steve Fushelberger, 812-379-4255 or fushelberger@aol.com or the church, 372-1571, ext. 2121.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.