Valdosta Daily Times

October 24, 2012

LAMP: Lighting the Way

Organization helps women find brighter futures

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Dutchess Caldwell found a supervisor role in a house-cleaning business sponsored by an organization that once gave her a hand.

Beatrice Manning has found employment supervising a shelter where she lived as a resident on four occasions.

Pointing to an organizational brochure, Harriet Messcher, a Lowndes Associated Ministries to People representative, notes these two women are examples of how LAMP has been “Lighting the way to brighter futures for nearly 30 years.”

They are two of LAMP’s most recent success stories, says Chris LaMontagne, LAMP assistant director.

For Dutchess Caldwell, she’s discovering success through the Clean Sweep business model created by LAMP and Valdosta State University Langdale College of Business Administration’s Student Advising Center. Clean Sweep is part of VSU Students In Free Enterprise’s legacy projects.

All Clean Sweep employees must complete Life Smarts and Computer Smarts projects for eligibility.

J. Diane Guess, Student Advising Center assistant director, arranges clients for Clean Sweep, which is a cleaning service. LAMP handles the money made from Clean Sweep to pay employees, buy the necessary cleaning materials and equipment, etc.

Along with Alicia Thomas, who is on maternity leave, Dutchess Caldwell works as a supervisor and a cleaner for Clean Sweep. Along with Guess, Caldwell has interviewed additional staff whom she supervises. Caldwell is learning how to book new clients. She will eventually learn how to handle the money for payroll and purchasing supplies.

Clean Sweep will show her how to one day run her own cleaning service.

Caldwell was once a LAMP shelter resident.

With her three children, a teenage daughter and two young sons, Caldwell moved from Hinesville a few years ago to Valdosta for a job opportunity. The job didn’t work out. She had nothing back in Hinesville.

“We stayed in a hotel until the money ran out,” Caldwell says.

They found a new place to stay in LAMP’s shelters. These dorm-style shelters are open to single women, women with children, men with children, and married couples in need, LaMontagne says. About 40-some residents live in the shelters now, but they can house up to 75-80 residents.

About a year ago, Caldwell received the surprise of a lifetime. She believed she was on a trip to look at a HUD-financed residence but, seeing her sons’ names posted in individual bedrooms, she learned she had been taken on a surprise visit to her new home. She and the children have lived there ever since.

Several months ago, Caldwell learned of LAMP’s new Clean Sweep employment opportunity. She applied for the job and got it.

With Clean Sweep, Caldwell has her own cleaning assignments each day. She oversees other staff members’ assignments with clients each day. VSU and LAMP continue looking for more cleaning clients to increase the number of people being employed and who will likely move up through the program’s ranks.

Beatrice Manning worked at a local manufacturer until the plant closed in the mid-1990s. Having lost her job, she stayed at the LAMP shelter for a short period of time. “Long enough to find a job and get back on my feet,” Manning says.

In 2004, again without work, she returned to the LAMP shelter. She found a job, saved some money and left the shelter.

She returned in 2007, staying in the shelter for nearly a year.

Her fourth stay came in December 2011. During this stay, she pledged not to return.

“I really tightened up,” Manning says. “I saved money.”

She took advantage of LAMP programs offering courses in money management. She not only learned how to save money but she applied those lessons to her money and her life. She saved enough money to buy a car, which Manning refers to as her baby.

“The last time I stayed at the shelter, I really wanted it,” Manning says of her desire to be successful and independent. LAMP provides the tools, “but you have to apply yourself. You have to want it.”

As a resident, she left the shelter several months ago; however, for the past few months, Manning returns to the LAMP shelter several times per week as an employee.

Manning is one of LAMP’s shelter supervisors. She works various eight-hour shifts at the shelter each week. Having been a resident on occasions during the past decade and a half, Manning knows what residents can expect and what is expected of the residents living in the shelter.

Residents have chore lists. Each adult resident has expected duties within the shelter from cooking to cleaning. As a supervisor, Manning ensures residents follow the chore lists and the rules.

With her experiences, she can be understanding with residents, but she can also be tough on them. The residents call her “Miss Bea.”

She shares her experiences with residents. She tells them what it took her four stays to fully understand.

“I tell them, You can do it, too,” Manning says, “but you have to want to do it.”