An employment specialist with Center for Community Action, Brittany Nunemaker of Warfordsburg loves her job. She credits services received through the Employment, Advancement, and Retention Network (EARN) and Work Ready programs with assisting her in becoming self-sufficient in her own life, and she takes pride in helping others work towards the same goal.
Nunemaker was raised as the oldest of three siblings in a divorced-parent family. She found it difficult to rotate weeks and holidays between both parents, and knew how hard her mother worked to raise her family.
After graduating from Berkeley Springs High School, Brittany married her husband, James. The two had their daughter, Makenna, in 2008. Realizing the family couldn’t make ends meet on just James’ full-time job, she obtained employment at a pizza shop and then a nursing home to help the family financially.
The couple’s second child, Hailey, was born about a year later, and, in 2013, Brittany was working for a nursing home while expecting their third child, Brantley. Lifting a patient at the nursing home caused Brittany to go into early-labor, and the doctor prescribed light-duty work.
Although Brittany’s co-workers were willing to help her with her work, it wasn’t possible for her to keep her job at the nursing home. This put her without a job at the same time her husband had been suffering health issues and also could not work.
Both unemployed with two young children, and a third on the way, the Nunemakers also were getting sick from what they found to be mold in their apartment, later being evicted when they made their landlord aware of the problem.
Obviously, the family needed assistance to survive. Brittany’s mother, Diane McCarty, suggested she visit the county assistance office. Brittany and James applied for assistance and their caseworker was able to get them into the EARN and Work Ready program, while they also were fighting for disability for James, who had a debilitating condition. They found a wonderful home to rent from a local Amish family, and things fell into place.
“Part of our condition to receive the cash assistance was to work at the Fulton County Food Basket, which I began to do after having Brantley,” explained Brittany. “It was a God-send for me because we were trying to get to doctor’s appointments for my husband, I had trouble with the pregnancy, etc. This was somewhere for me to go to work where they understood my situation.”
Only needing to work part-time hours at the food bank, Brittany asked the management if she could work full-time because it made her feel good to work and help others.
It was at the food bank where Brittany met people who inspired her to find her inner confidence and follow her dreams. Dreams she may have thought were silly until she was encouraged to explore them through the EARN program.
“Sherri (Lynn) and Susan (Cubbage) from the food bank encouraged me,” explained Brittany. “They listened when I needed an ear, and told me to stay on my path. They encouraged me.”
Brittany said just talking with the volunteers who came in to the food bank to helped her. “It made me really think, when I heard that they struggled too – needed assistance – and now own their own company, or are thriving,” she explained. “It made me realize I could accomplish my goals.”
While the food bank was working to obtain a grant to include Brittany on their payroll, she received a call from Center for Community Action inviting her to an interview.
“They understood my schedule and had known all I had gone through, and they offered me the position as a job coach,” said Brittany. “I said, I’ll definitely take it! I started part-time, and was really proud to be offered full-time after about six months.”
Through her position as an employment specialist, Brittany assists in proctoring the HiSet test while also helping with the Work Ready program in Fulton County. She helps individuals with their resumes, complete job applications, and works with high school students who have disabilities to become ready for the work force. She also proctors the HiSet test for those wishing to obtain their G.E.D.
“I especially love the kids and I’ve realized I think I’ve got it bad until I see some of the things others are going through,” Brittany emphasized. “These kids have these disabilities for life and they don’t let their barriers hold them back. I’ve learned to look at life in a whole new view. You think you’ve got it bad and then you meet someone who has it much worse.”
Although her obligation of volunteering at the food pantry was over, she remained part of their team, and even worked with clients through her new job there. Sherri and Susan remained a text message or phone call away, assisting her three years ago when she lost her sister in a tragic car accident.
Brittany couldn’t be more grateful for the formed connection with her friends at the food pantry and is appreciative of the services that Center for Community Action provided to her.
“Through the EARN program, the counselor showed us a movie that said the energy you put off is what you attract,” Brittany explained. “I had never thought of things like that before. They encouraged me to put together a dream board and think about my goals. I thought it could be silly, but what could go wrong in trying it?”
It was that motivation that allowed Brittany to realize she could make things happen, and she didn’t need to be afraid to go after her dreams. She started to think about her aspirations and dreams much more, and gaining focus.
“Today, I feel good that I recently received a raise and I don’t think we even qualify for services anymore,” Brittany enthused. “I’m proud of that. To be able to say that we don’t qualify- in a good way – makes me proud I was able to accomplish it on my own. Of course, with the help and support of the people who believed in me, I am ecstatic to not need the system.”
That system is one that Brittany believes assisted her in becoming who she is, and that she is proud to work in, today.
“Center for Community Action services helped build me up and prepare me for jobs,” she said. “The ladies at the food bank helped guide me, especially when I was doubting myself. They reminded me that I was headed in the right direction and set me on my path.”
Brittany said anyone in the shoes she once was in should stay focused.
“You’ve just got to keep your faith and know that the path you are on is the path God wants you to take,” she said. “And, follow through.”
Believing the EARN program and her volunteerism at the food bank helped her become confident enough to go out of her usual comfort zone, Brittany said it is important to take chances. “You aren’t going to always know how it will turn out, but you have to have the confidence in yourself to take the chance and try for that job,” she said.
And, it’s those lessons, and the importance of being humble and compassionate, that she wants to pass down to her children.
“My oldest daughter knows that I work with individuals with disabilities and it makes me feel good that she is proud of me and what I do,” said Brittany. “She is compassionate, especially when she sees other people hurt. I love to see that in her, and I want my children to always be humble and kind.”
Brittany said she is proud to work for Center for Community Action, and she encourages anyone who needs help to ask.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Brittany advised. “But, don’t doubt yourself and put yourself down, thinking you are never going to get out of that hole. If you have support and the mindset that you want to get out of a bad situation – you can. You need a good support system and to feel that it is OK to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed about it. There are people who need help, and those who need it should not feel ashamed to ask for it.”
Appreciative that help was available for her to get her family back on its feet, Brittany said no one should ever feel they have to stay in a situation “just because.”
“If you’ve grown up in that line where it seems like your parents have gotten help – or they didn’t have much, and you are living that life—it doesn’t mean that it is going to be a repeated cycle,” she encouraged. “Assistance is there to help you get to the next step, and to do better.”
“Just because things have been bad for (it seems like) forever doesn’t mean that has to be the continued path,” Brittany encouraged. “You can change that – your life is an open book, you get to write your own ending.”