Job fair offers local employment and volunteer opportunities

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center and the Black Mountain Center for the Arts were among the 25 area businesses and nonprofit organizations to participate in a job fair, co-sponsored by the Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce and Mountain Area Workforce, on Oct. 1, in the Monte Vista Hotel. The museum's assistant director, Saro Lynch-Thomason, left, and Arts Center director Lori Cozzi advertised volunteer opportunities at the event.

Twenty-five area organizations gathered in the Monte Vista, Oct. 1, to meet face to face with prospective employees and volunteers. 

The Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce and Mountain Area Workforce Development co-sponsored the job fair, which featured some of the Swannanoa Valley’s biggest employers and attracted more than 75 job-seekers.

From 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Ingles, Kearfott, the Town of Black Mountain and others, accepted applications for full-time and part-time positions. Ridgecrest Conference Center, owned by Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources, was one of several organizations offering full-time, part-time and volunteer positions. 

“We have several opportunities available,” said Danielle Demarino, who was representing Ridgecrest, the largest Christian conference center in the country. “With so many departments, we have positions available for a pretty wide variety of people.”

One of seven conference centers in the area included among the members of the chamber of commerce, Ridgecrest advertised seven summer staff, three part-time and two full-time positions. The organization also offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. 

“We have many departments at the conference center,” Demarino said. “Within each of them are several volunteer opportunities, and many of those involve a relatively low commitment. We draw a lot from our existing network of volunteers, who come from all over the country, but we’re always looking to build that network.”

Swannana-based Davidson Family Services, which was started by John and Cindy Davidson in 1998, was another organization offering employment and volunteer opportunities. 

“We are family owned and operated,” said marketing outreach coordinator Chrissy Loveday. “What we do is provide Alternative Family Living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through that service, the people we serve are able to learn life skills and receive the specific support they need.”

Davidson Family Services also offers foster care opportunities, ranging from traditional to therapeutic to special needs. 

“We look for people with big hearts,” Loveday said. “We’re a faith-based organization so we really value people.”

Nancy Lewen, an independent senior sales director with Mary Kay, advertised a part-time administrative assistant position, but also used the platform to highlight the cosmetic company’s work in the community.

“A lot of people recognize Mary Kay for the products, or the pink Cadillacs,” Lewen said. “But not as many are familiar with the company’s dedication to helping victims of domestic violence.”

The Mary Kay Foundation, dedicated to ending domestic violence and eliminating cancers affecting women, awarded grants of $20,000 to more than 150 shelters across the country in 2018. 

“It was a cause that was close to Mary Kay’s heart, and it’s one that’s important to me, too,” Lewen said. “May of us who work for Mary Kay find ways to do what we can.”

Lewen’s work supporting victims of domestic violence involves creating welcome bags. She donates them to area shelters to be given to women when they arrive. Lewen was seeking volunteers to help package the bags. 

“It’s something good that anyone can be a part of,” she said. “I think it’s great that the chamber is giving everyone a chance, through this job fair, to also talk to people about ways they can help their community. I’m really happy to be part of this.”

Sharon Tabor, executive director for the chamber, called the job fair a “success.”

“There was a diverse range of businesses and nonprofits represented,” she said following the event. “We also had a nice combination of chamber and non-chamber participants, so it was a great networking opportunity for the businesses, as well.”

Including volunteer opportunities in the job fair spoke to the role the community plays in the success of area nonprofits, Tabor said. 

“Of course the chamber relies on the support of volunteers, and so do most of our nonprofit organizations,” she said. “We have a lot of retirees here in the area, and we get calls at the chamber from people asking for a master list of volunteer opportunities in the community. We though this job fair could give new retirees in the area a chance to come check out things they can do in the community.”

The timing of the job fair coincided with the seasonal uptick in business that fall brings to the area, according to Tabor. 

“October is a very busy month here because of leaf season, and we thought doing this prior to leaf season would help local organizations fill positions to provide the best service to visitors as they came through,” she said. “We would like to hold another job fair in early March, in preparation for spring break and summer business. We’ll have those plans solidified around the first of the year.”