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Wed, Oct. 23

Women's Education and Employment group honors volunteer, successful clients

Courtesy photo<br>Barbara Polk receives AWEE’s Spirit of Volunteerism award and a painting, presented by her daughter-in-law, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

Courtesy photo<br>Barbara Polk receives AWEE’s Spirit of Volunteerism award and a painting, presented by her daughter-in-law, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

Three women who have achieved greater heights, despite the odds, and a fourth who has spent decades advocating for people who need a helping hand received special recognition at an AWEE lunch and tea on Sept. 23 at the Prescott Resort.

The honorees were AWEE success stories Lori Larson, Linda King and Dreama Clarke and longtime Prescott resident Barbara Polk, who won the organization's first ever Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

AWEE (Arizona Women's Education and Employment) began nearly 30 years ago to give women the resources they need to get off welfare and into the workforce. The organization broadened its programs to include not only women, but also men and young adults. Today, more than 90,000 people have benefited from AWEE's range of training and support services in Maricopa and Yavapai counties.

Larson, who came to Prescott in 2009, joined AWEE this past June, unemployed and devastated by her teenage son's death. She attended career series workshops, received one-on-one coaching, benefited from gas coupons and AWEE's clothing closet and set short- and long-term goals. Today, she works for Bitchin' Products, a hot rod manufacturing company, as a shipping and receiving clerk and office staffer.

"Every day I gained momentum and got the confidence I needed to attack the workforce," she said. And, she added, a support group helped her with the grief over her son's death.

Clarke was in dire financial straits when she sought AWEE's services. She completed the organization's career preparation workshop, received gas coupons and selected outfits from the clothing closet for attire for interviews and on the job.

She now supervises housekeeping at Chapel Rock Camp and attends college.

"AWEE helped me be job-ready," she said, because she learned interview skills, how to write a resume, and how to prepare to re-enter the workforce after she had lost her job.

AWEE "was an unspeakable amount of support and encouragement and a super good friend," Clarke said of the organization and its director, Mary Bauer.

King is now administrative assistant at the Arizona's Children Association office in Prescott.

When she signed up with AWEE, she had lost her husband not long before. And she hadn't worked for more than 22 years.

All of a sudden, she said, she had to provide for herself. "I had no clue," King said. "I didn't even know what a cover letter was."

She heard about AWEE and completed its job-readiness program and learned not only how to write a resume but also how to market her skills after 22 years of being a homemaker, wife and mother.

Most important, King discovered that she hadn't been "jobless" as a wife and mother. Her resume reflects her people and time management skills, as well as her budgeting abilities because she had handled her family's finances.

AWEE, she said, helped her "present her skills correctly to an employer."

Polk, a Prescott resident since 1956, has volunteered her time to a host of local entities, said her daughter-in-law, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, in presenting the award to her mother-in-law.

The summary of her volunteerism covers three pages, Sheila Polk said, and reflects her work on behalf of children, foster care, the arts and humanities and recreational services, to name just a few areas to which she has given her time.

Barbara Polk received an original painting, "The Promise," by artist Steve Atkinson, whose model for the painting was Barbara's daughter, Julie.

"AWEE is a wonderful organization," Polk said in accepting the award. "AWEE lives and lives because we all care about succeeding and caring for your kids and those who make it through difficult times. I love being a volunteer."

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