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Experience Works helped Backus native help herself

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About four years ago, Marilynn Lodin of Backus found herself in need of financial help when a group called Experience Works helped her to find peace of mind.

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Lodin spent her working years as a dental assistant in the Twin Cities. She knew her fair share about computers and data entry, but for a woman reaching retirement age, she found that her skills were not as locally marketable as she had hoped.

She found her answer in a newspaper advertisement for a company called Experience Works.

“I was having trouble making my bills, and I needed to come up with something so I applied with them,” Lodin said.

When she applied, Lodin was expecting a normal type of employment. What she found was very different.

Experience Works places individuals 55 or older into positions working exclusively under non-profit and community organizations. Applicants must be eligible for work in the United States, meet household income eligibility, be unemployed and be willing to work 20 hours a week for minimum wage.

Experience Works offered to give Lodin placement with community organizations or non-profits in the area. She would work 20 hours a week for minimum wage. In addition, Experience Works would educate her on resume writing and interviewing for a job as well as other skills.

“The ultimate goal is they leave our payroll and get a job somewhere in the community,” said Paul Anderson, employment and training coordinator for Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard, Wadena, Crow Wing, Todd and Morrison counties.

Lodin was first employed preparing Meals-on-Wheels with Heartland Apartments in Pine River. In that position, she became known as "the pie lady." In her two years with the service Lodin was featured in the news for cooking more than 5,000 pies.

Lodin was moved from the Heartland Apartments position after two years, saying that Experience Works moves workers every two years.

“If they could rotate you every year, that’s what they would do so you would have four different types of experience that you could put down on your resume,” Lodin said.

Experience Works took advantage of Lodin’s previous experience with computers.

“What we try to do is line people up with something that fits their interest, skill levels, abilities and time table,” Anderson said.

Lodin’s second placement was with Heritage Group North (HGN) in Pine River. The group was looking for someone to gather data in celebration of the Pine River Fire Department’s centennial, which occurred in 2012.

“It was awesome. When they moved me from Heartland to this research job, I had done research before,” Lodin said. “I thought, I want to still cook, I want to be with my friends. But they said, 'You either move or you are done.'”

She started the job in November of 2010. She was furnished a computer and worked 850 hours, or 20 hours per week, searching city council minutes, library documents, Pine River Journal articles and Pine River Fire Department reports.

“When I started, I guess they didn’t expect me to go into such depth with it,” Lodin said. “It was a job. I don’t do things half way.”

“I think it worked real well. That program is really good. We’re trying to find another person right now to help out HGN,” said Jerry Peterson of HGN.

By the time she finished the story, Lodin could pick out words like "fire," "burn," "flames" and "blaze" on a page of newsprint from a distance. When she finished the book, she also finished her time with Experience Works in just short of four years.

“After four years I got my head above water and was able to draw on my investments,” Lodin said.

Experience Works provided Lodin with the financial assistance she needed, and for that she is grateful.

“I think it’s awesome. What they did in just providing me with a job, even if it was minimum wage, I was glad to get what I could get just to get my head above water,” Lodin said. “Most people who are 55 want to work. If they can find anything, they are willing to do it.”

Lodin said Experience Works isn’t only valuable for its financial assistance, but also for maintaining a social lifestyle while things are hard.

“It does get you out in the public where you are socializing with all types of different people instead of staying home worrying about how you will pay your bills and watching television,” Lodin said. “I think basically that’s really important for older generations.”

Lodin said work like this keeps people’s minds occupied and reminds them they are important to society.

Experience Works is a 501c3 charitable organization that has been in operation since December of 1965. It has been active in Todd, Wadena and Cass counties since 1966.

In the Pine River area, Experience Works has placed staff with the Kitchigami Regional Library, Heritage Group North, The Warehouse, RREAL, the Economic Development Corporation, Whispering Pines Good Samaritan Home, and other community and non-profit groups.

Experience Works positions are limited to 48 months by federal law, though there are circumstances where that limit may be extended. Experience Works also offers some vocational training opportunities. Approximately 20-30 percent of those who work with Experience Works go on to serve in other positions.

Interested parties should visit experienceworks.org to apply, or call Paul in Wadena at 218-631-3483 or 855-270-9660.

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