Westside woman finds strength with transition center

 Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
 Westside resident Vivian Taylor attributes the Women in Transistion program at the New Dirctions Career Center to helping her find a job where she can use her passion — cooking. She works in hot food presparation at Giant Eagle on West Broad Street and is cross training to work in the bakery and deli.

Cooking is Vivian Taylor’s passion and she is working at what she likes, although it took her a long time to get there.

It was the last part of the long and winding and often bumpy road that got Taylor to where she is today, working in hot food preparation at Giant Eagle and training in the supermarket’s deli and bakery departments. At the age of 50.

"You have to follow your passion," she said. "It took me too long to get there. But I’m doing what I want to do. It makes a difference."

After 12 years in a job she hated, caring for family members during illness and being taken care of by her two sons, she knew she had to make a change. She did her research in her home town of Lima in northwest Ohio and arrived in Columbus in January 2004.

Even after making a wrong career decision in Columbus and being homeless with 50 resumes in hand, she made it into the Women in Transition program at the New Directions Career Center. And  that’s what she attributes to her current satisfaction.

The New Directions Center, established in 1980 to support women who were re-entering the labor market, has helped more than 60,000 individuals in central Ohio in the past 27 years. Many of them like Taylor.

In the four-week Women in Transition program, participants learn what they have to do to become gainfully employed.

"You tell them what you want to do and they tell you what all you can do," Taylor said. "It’s like behavior modification."

Women also learn how to write their resume, learn about job placement and get career counseling.

"What helped me most was the support," she said.

And although she has completed the program, she’ll still go back to visit the staff and share experiences, she said.

Pursuing a career in food preparation, perhaps, got its start when she was a child.

"Mom was a domestic, cleaning homes," she recalled, adding that her father encouraged her mother to quit that job and put her cooking talents to work.

"She fed factories on the weekends," Taylor said.

After graduating from Lima Perry High School in 1975, instead of following her dreams of being involved in food, she followed the way of her friends and went to work at a factory in Defiance.

"I hated that job. I had it for 12 years," she said. "I forced myself to go to every day."

Her father had passed away when she was in her late teens. She left factory work to care for her ill mother.

In 1992, after the deaths of her mother and a brother, she left for Chicago where she pursued the study of nutrition and management at Malcolm X College and worked at Cook County Hospital.

But she left there in 1995 to take care of her sister who had become ill.

"My life was on a downhill spiral and I couldn’t get going," she said. "I was depressed. My sons were taking care of me."

Her son Demetrious Taylor is 25, and son Shermaine Upshaw is 27.

Demetrious is currently working in Columbus while Upshaw, having made some bad choices which she felt "may have been to help me," is incarcerated.

When she decided to move to Columbus, her sons tried to dissuade her.

"They said ‘Mama, don’t do it,’" she said.

But she felt she had to. At this time, all that was left of the family was her and her two sons.

"I was the only one left," she said. "I feel God left me here for a reason."

She started in at Columbus State and was working in food preparation and had to do an internship where there was a chef. She was faced with a difficult decision on choosing a position.

"I made the wrong decision," Taylor recalled. "Within a couple of months I was laid off."

She worked some temporary jobs and kept learning.

"I value my education," she said. "I love knowledge."

She also enjoys reading and selects a lot of self-motivation and self-improvement books.

"I’m learning to be positive," she said.

And she’s cooking.

"Cooking is my passion," she said.

At home, her favorite foods are oxtails and collard greens, but for a diverse audience, "it’s roast lima beans and macaroni and cheese."

When her children were growing up, she made their birthday cakes from scratch. Her favorite – 7-Up Pound Cake "because it is moist."

One item she has trouble mastering is the sweet potato pie. "Mine’s not like Mom’s."

She is also quick to praise the help she received from the New Directions Career Center. Besides helping women trying to learn what they can do and how to find a job or new career, the center also has a Clothes Closet of gently used clothing suitable for the women to wear to interviews and on the job.

"The New Directions Career Center helps women like Vivian find their employment passion so that they can become economically self-sufficient for them and their families," said the center’s executive director Ellen Barney. "Whether you have been down-sized or are just entering the workforce, New Directions offers programs and services designed for your specific situation."

And Giant Eagle, a late entry into the supermarket business in central Ohio, is also strong on the program.

"Giant Eagle is proud to support New Directions Career Center and its mission to assist individuals, particularly women in transition, to attain economic self-sufficiency," said Dave Daniel, regional vice president for Giant Eagle. "We have experienced success in hiring individuals who have completed New Direction’s program, and hope other companies could experience the same benefits."

Today Taylor feels like a new person.

"I’m doing what I like to do. I’m fulfilled," she said. "It’s not about the money. I’m happy doing my job and people appreciate what I can do.

"I don’t have much, but I’m motivated," she added. "I may not have a DVD player or plasma TV, but I’ve got a job to go to that I love."

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