"It was truly a One-Stop" says Jason George, an evacuee from the hurricane affected region, speaking of Workforce Oklahoma. They showed him how to sign up for unemployment insurance and ensured that he had contact with FEMA. In his interview, One-Stop staff even checked to make sure his basic needs were met. Jason was impressed with the Muskogee One-Stop Center as he watched them go above and beyond the call of duty to help evacuees with everything from transportation to temporary jobs, to clothing and shelter information.
After initially evacuating to Baton Rouge, Jason arrived in Muskogee, leaving his life and job behind in Chalmette, Louisiana. It took only hours for Hurricane Katrina to destroy his community, his home and all of his belongings. "Everything that we had worked for was gone in just one day".
Jason was a physical science teacher and coach at a local high school. But, by the time he made it to Muskogee, all of the permanent teaching jobs and coaching positions had been filled for the school year.
Following his initial interview, a savvy staff member from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission hand delivered a copy of Jason's resume to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) provider. With his background as a Marine Corps career counselor, combined with his experience as a teacher and coach, Jason was a prime candidate for a vacant WIA Case Manager position. "The fact that he was an educator showed he had a heart for helping people," says Lee Ann Langston, Director of Steps Inc. who hired Jason on the spot. Knowing that he had been through the same traumas and challenges that the nearly 1500 other evacuees settling in the Muskogee area faced, she felt he could empathize and relate to their unique situation.
Jason describes it best…"Starting over can put a great deal of stress in your life. Not knowing where you're going to live, finding a job, not having money, having to depend on the government for the first time. …Even with a college degree, being unemployed is scary."
It's a long road back from losing so much, but Jason has made great strides. He enjoys his new job as a Case Manager and has a large case load of Adults and Dislocated Workers, including 9 hurricane evacuees. He, like many others, is still haunted with nightmares of the hurricane aftermath, but Jason is optimistic and hopeful about his future. In fact, in January he and his fiancée, Shauna, were married.
Jason and his bride are thriving in their new home and community thanks in part to the kindness and generosity of family and friends, and the support of their church community. With all that he's been through, Jason is clear about what he wants out of life, "From now on I will live in the moment and not put off all the things I want to do. We are going to travel and see the world every chance we get. I am going to tell the people in my life that I love them everyday. It's very simple, I am going live life and not get involved in the big rat race".