You may have seen this great article, by Scott Lockwood, on the WRCSC services in North Port. But if not, here’s your second chance! Thanks to North Port Peer & Challenge Instructor Janet Bresky for your kind words.
By SCOTT LOCKWOOD
Special to the Sun
NORTH PORT — If you’re a woman — or man — in need, there’s a place you can go that will welcome you with open arms and point you in the right direction.
That place is the Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County, which has an office in North Port.
The organization, founded in 1979, serves women in four locations throughout Sarasota County. The majority of WRC employees are volunteers and the organization’s financial support comes from individual donors. They also own Encore & More, a consignment shop in downtown Sarasota.
“We’re here primarily to help women, but we do accept men,” said North Port peer resource counselor and Challenge facilitator Janet Bresky. “We’ve had men come in and need the same services. We don’t turn anyone away.”
The first person someone will talk to at the WRC is the peer referral counselor — both an unbiased ear and a sounding board or advocate. They listen to what is going on in the woman’s life and try to determine what the issues are. Resources will be provided to help with those issues and an action plan will be developed before she leaves the center.
“We prioritize their needs and write the action plan to help with each of their needs,” Bresky said.
The Challenge class is the core program of the WRC. It has steered hundreds of women in the right direction and is something Bresky encourages anyone who enters the center for help to attend.
“It’s a program that I think almost any woman can use,” Bresky said. “Basically, we’re going to teach them how to set boundaries, what assertiveness means, how to handle anger issues, women’s health issues, dealing with grief and stress management. We also teach what abuse is and how to define it.
“A lot of times, women don’t even realize they’re being abused. They think, ‘Something is not right here,’ but they don’t think it’s abuse.”
Bresky stressed that the most important aspect of the Challenge class — and perhaps the biggest goal of the WRC — is teaching women to think positively, gain self-esteem and build confidence.
“I always say if you could put those three things in a bottle and just take a sip of it, your life would be so much better,” she said. “Obviously it’s not that easy … or else we’d all have it. Sometimes people have it, and then circumstances in life take it away from them.”
The class has been a huge success in the past. Women who have come in with their heads down, saying it’s too painful to continue, have thrived at the end of the session.
“They’d keep coming and they’d love it,” Bresky said. “When they leave, everybody is hugging and exchanging numbers. They’ve opened up, their shoulders are lifted and they’re feeling a lot better about themselves and their lives. It’s such an awesome program.”
There is a charge for the class, but scholarships are available and easy to obtain by simply talking to Bresky. The next Challenge class will be held July 3-5, with hours to be determined by those who wish to attend the class. Bresky is the instructor.
WRC can also help those with disabilities. Calls are made while the woman is in the office, and they are usually assigned a counselor within 48 hours.
“Part of what we do is we want to educate the women and then empower them to feel that they can do these things,” Bresky said. “We want to make them feel that it’s not a crime at this point in their life because their having a tough time.”
The number of people that the WRC helps has increased significantly during the economic downturn. More than half of the calls the center receives are housing issues, mainly due to spouses leaving or disabilities. In some cases, clients have already lost their home and cannot afford to rent on their own.
“We do our best and we work very closely with (North Port) Social Services to see if we can get someone qualified for assistance,” Bresky said.
WRC also offers career counseling and employment classes. Career counselors help with résumé writing, and classes are offered to teach women the dos and don’ts to say for résumés and job interviews. Tests are offered to help determine which career might be best — a big help for those who have been out of work for an extended period of time due to marriage or the economy. There is also a returnship program offered for women looking for a career change or re-entering the workforce. Upon completion of the career adviser’s program, women are ready to begin job interviews and receive a voucher good for a free outfit at Encore & More.
Bresky has one final message for those out there who may need help — now or in the future. “We need the women of North Port to know that we’re here,” Bresky said. “No matter what your issue is, we can be a great starting point because we will listen and we will try and get you to the right people.”