Welfare Reform Liaison Project

by Terry Watson | March 11th, 2015
Dr. Iris Spencer

Dr. Iris Spencer

In a small office park tucked away off of Randleman Road in Greensboro, local residents brave the cold weather to come to the classrooms of the Welfare Reform Liaison Project (WRLP), where they become eager students for a few hours a day. However, it’s not reading and writing that’s being taught here; instead, the adult students come to learn specific job skills for the modern economy. The students know by coming to WRLP, they can learn the skills that they know will put them on the path to career success, and be paired with local employers who will provide them with experience and a decent salary. But it’s not just jobs training and work placement that WRLP helps to provide to them, the greatest thing is hope.

Welfare Reform Liaison Project is Guilford County’s community action agency and its mission is to help provide workforce development, skills training and jobs placement to people in the community who live below the poverty level. The organization began in 1998, as the brain-child of Bishop George W. Brooks and Rev. Odell Cleveland, two local leaders at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro. Recent changes in welfare laws had created an additional burden on those who were most vulnerable to shifts in the economy. It would no longer be enough to hope that state and federal governments would do what was necessary to protect the least amongst us. That’s why they decided to take matters into their own hands by creating a local organization that would help people in the Triad to break their dependence on welfare and become self-sufficient.

The goal was to create a space where those who were willing to learn and to work could receive help to improve themselves and better their circumstances. Their core team of staff would provide the administration and space that would serve as a foundation for the endeavor, while their partners in local charities, schools, and other community groups would help coordinate efforts to get people the help they needed and show them where to go.

The work continues in 2015 under Dr. Irish Spencer’s professional leadership, an award-winning local leader who sits on a host of community boards and committees and has a wealth of contacts among the Triad’s leaders. Formerly a long-time station manager at Entercom Radio, she balanced sales, promotions, and administrative tasks for years to ensure the health of the organization. Since then, she’s been heavily involved in community organizations and local churches. As a specialist in nonprofit and corporate environments, she has kept WRLP on a sound footing and begun expanding its reach throughout the Triad.

“It’s always been our mission to provide services that will help those who are hurting to move towards self-sufficiency,” Dr. Spencer says about her work. “By working together with local governments, charities, and faith groups, we can make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Operations have expanded beyond the original scope. In recent years, the 75,000-square-foot Greensboro campus has grown to include a warehouse and an attached store for greater storage and to provide a place for residents to purchase essential goods at discounted prices. Not only do they provide these services in Greensboro, but they also extend services to High Point through their partnership and collaboration with the One-Stop Job-Link Career Services Center located on Idol Drive. This partnership allows them to utilize all of the services at this one-stop-shop such as vocational rehab, unemployment, GTCC services, veterans’ assistance and many others.

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