Summer jobs stimulated by feds

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Josh Freiling, 19, of Lewisburg separates recyclable aluminum housings from plastic and electronic parts as part of his summer job with Marshall County.

Forty-three offices and shops in Marshall County have employed more than 90 people in the summer youth jobs program that's subsidized by federal stimulus money.

"This is the first time there's been a summer youth program in Marshall County under this program," says Sylvia Drusilla Davis, the county coordinator for the program administered by the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance headquartered in Columbia.

A couple of employees include Josh Freiling, 19, of Lewisburg, who's looking for other work and while he likes what he's doing, he's not sure he wants another job in recycling.

Another was Josh Lankford, 22, who's been called back to military service and has proved to be important to the Marshall County Veterans Service Office where Director Billy Hill says that without Lankford, or someone in that job, there are interruptions to his personal attention to servicemen and women and their relatives who frequently bring him complicated issues.

"I really appreciate his professionalism," Hill said of Lankford who brought an air of military demeanor to a county office serving veterans who are used to such respect. "I hate to lose him."

While only three years older than Freiling, Lankford's life experience reflects national and world issues. State and federal issues are approached as the Workforce Alliance has served him this summer.

Lankford enlisted in the Army at McKenzie, Tenn., in October of 2005 and mustered out in December of 2007 after fulfilling assignments that included some work overseas.

"Surprisingly, it was hard for me to find any permanent job, even in security," he said, having been told by friends and others that veterans don't have trouble getting work.

He bounced from one factory job to another, having won assignments through employment agencies, but he soon realized that while he was told he could work toward making that a permanent job, he was typically among those who were last hired and first fired when layoffs were ordered.

Without health insurance and his wife, Stefanie Daws-Lankford, expecting their second child around Thanksgiving, the young couple seems to have been secured by the military as Lankford was called back.

Now, he's taken some time off before returning to uniform service and taking off for Afghanistan. He will soon have enough time in the military to use his GI Bill benefits. Lankford wants to study to become a pharmacist.

But military work and civilian office work are different and Lankford says, "This has really helped me out."

He found the position here by going to the Columbia State Community College campus on South Ellington Parkway where he met career advisor Tia Anderson at the Workforce Office. She referred him to the Summer Youth Program.

It's been so popular that Davis was able to exceed her goal of 75 youth in summer jobs, so she'll have to wait before finding another assistant at the Veteran's Office.

Meanwhile, as Hill misses Lankford, so do the senior citizens at the center down the hall in the Hardison Annex where Wilma Roger wishes him well because of her respect for the military.

She even composed a short poem for him: "Your name is Josh. I hope you like squash."