Some Story County residents have discovered Beyond Welfare, a public assistance program aimed at people coming off welfare and moving into the workforce.

"We provide assistance for transportation, housing, job placement, childcare, food, consumer leadership and partner families," said Lois Smidt, community resource director of Beyond Welfare.

Currently, 10 Story County families on welfare have partner families to provide support as they leave the welfare program, Smidt said.

"The partners are a way for them to get out of isolation, have a circle of friends and people for support and resources," she said.

She said 11 cars have been donated to Beyond Welfare, three of which have already been lent to families. Ames area garages, including Ron's Auto Repair, 119 Washington Ave.; Butch's Amoco, Lincoln Way and Duff Avenue; Anksorus Auto Repair, 219 Sondrol Ave.; and Magic Muffler and Brakes in Boone, have been working closely with the program providing a variety of services, she said.

Beyond Welfare also tries to provide some families with larger, more basic necessities.

"There are 40 affordable housing options for people in Beyond Welfare," Smidt said.

The housing ranges from "affordable to low-income," she said.

Smidt said the consumer leadership group is a peer support system, led by a team of people who were recently or are currently on public assistance.

"It is an advocate to people and a self-efficient support group," she said.

Another provision of Beyond Welfare provides families with locally grown organic vegetables. Last year, 25 families received food, and Smidt said she hopes to provide enough for 25-30 families this year.

A new section of Beyond Welfare is job placement.

Chuck Brewer of Mid-Iowa Community Action, 113 Colorado Ave., works closely with the program to promote this service.

"We are still in the jumping-off stage and information-gathering mode," Brewer said.

He said the job placement program mirrors a program offered in Polk County.

Interested employers are asked to profile jobs they need filled, and agencies then determine potential applicants with a test called Work Keys, Brewer said. Based on the test results, jobs are matched with applicant's skills. Otherwise, the agency will train the applicants, he said.

"It's an expensive program, and we are going to try to raise funds and apply for grant money," Brewer said. "We met with the Ames Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, and we need to meet with the city council and local businesses soon."

Brewer said one important aspect of this program is to provide jobs that are profitable.

Beyond Welfare also provides occasional childcare service to families for a couple of hours each month to give them a break, he said.

"All of these individual programs have [volunteer] team leaders to make sure the families are developing, set and meet goals and have resources," Smidt said.

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