Longtime Pasadena Nonprofit Women at Work Shuts Down, Sets Legacy Party

Published : Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | 5:12 AM

Women at Work, a long-standing Pasadena non-profit organization, is shutting down formally after 39 years of serving women in the Pasadena area in their quest for employment and career advancement.

To celebrate its more than three decades of providing job skills training, employment preparation and job search services to thousands of women job seekers, Women at Work will hold a Legacy Celebration on Saturday, June 16, at the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, at 160 North Oakland Avenue, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The group’s Field of Interest Endowment Fund, which supports organizations in Pasadena and the Greater San Gabriel Valley that help women with challenging circumstances achieve sustainable employment, will continue, according to an official announcement.

Melinda Carmichael, President of the Board for Women at Work, estimates the endowment fund to be at about $175,000.

“The endowments are mostly focused on employment,” Carmichael said. “Last year we made a grant to a veterans’ group at PCC – these are women who are trying to continue their education and rejoin the workforce. This year we made a grant to Adelante, which is a Latino group.”

Women At Work was founded in 1979 by Betty Ann Jansson, Marge Leighton and Barbara Burke. The organization began by offering a resource room equipped with job listings and library books on women’s employment, and by holding seminars and workshops on career fields and career planning classes.

Before the announcement that it was closing down, Women at Work’s website continued to provide online career and employment resources and financial support. The website connected women to as many resources as possible, whether they are working for a corporation and seeking advancement, looking for career changes, or seeking “to become their own boss.”

The endowment fund was established in April 2016 with seed money in the amount of $26,000. Since then, the group has continued to raise funding and has surpassed its initial goal of raising $100,000.

“We are very proud of having established an endowment,” Carmichael said. “I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done in the past two years, since we had to close the facility, and I’m very happy that we leave this legacy for women that work.”

In early 2015, Women at Work decided to close its walk-in resource center at 2555 E. Colorado Blvd. as it evaluated various ways to restructure the organization. The group was spending about $85,000 per year for the 4,000 square-foot location.

Even then, Women at Work continued its work of supporting women seeking employment through its website, online classes, the endowment fund, and a number of program-based events that focused on topics of interest to women and their careers.

Robin McCarthy, who was executive director for the group from 2007 to 2013, said she continued to support the organization even after moving on as consultant to other nonprofits.

“When I started in 2007 the organization had already been around,” McCarthy said. “I was charged with examining the future of the organization. We moved offices and decided to focus on a couple of core issues – job placement, technology and helping women find work. We created a weekly job club, we expanded it dramatically. The clientele has always been middle-aged and older women. Those women in particular were hurt during the job downturn. Those women who came into the center many times, they had lost their jobs, they had been through a divorce… it was a tough economic time.”

At Saturday’s Legacy Celebration, some of the group’s key supporters and some of the women who have been in the support programs will be speaking about their experiences. Women at Work leaders are also expected to speak about the organization’s plans.

For more information and to RSVP for Saturday’s event, visit www.womenatwork.org.

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