Tina Siar's life imploded on Feb. 1, 2013, when her ex-husband was arrested for fraudulent business practices. She was left reeling. Her marriage had fallen apart five years earlier, but her ex-husband had continued to provide financial support for her and their three children. After his arrest, Siar did not know how to proceed, so she heeded advice from a Penn Manor social worker and turned to New Choices of Lancaster, 110 N. Lime St., Lancaster, for help.
"I'm a strong person, but what I went through, my head was spinning," Siar recalled. "(The class) helped me focus. Hearing the role models' stories inspired me."
In March 2013, Siar enrolled in the New Choices Career Development Program, which assists single mothers, displaced homemakers, and women in transition in achieving economic self-sufficiency. During the 10-day, 60-hour class taught by New Choices executive director Tricia Nabors, Siars learned about some of the community resources available to help her family. She also learned about herself, taking time to assess her passions and dreams and investigating how they could become practical ways to earn a living.
"We focus on personal social development," Nabors said. "(I tell my clients), 'You are not your circumstance.' I try to get people (to heal) from the inside out. We address perceived barriers. I want to charge (students) with the gumption to go out and get what (they) need."
The class also helps students improve their employability, and those who complete the program are eligible for scholarships to pursue short-term education. Siar decided to train in massage, and for the past two years, she has worked hard to build a client base. "I love helping people," Siar said.
Siar and other New Choices alumni recently recorded their stories about life change for a video that will be shown at Taste of Success, an event that will raise funds for New Choices while celebrating the organization's 30th anniversary.
Taste of Success will be held on Friday, April 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Willow Valley Cultural Center, 900 Willow Lakes Drive, Willow Street. Chefs in training from the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, which sponsors New Choices, will offer an array of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite dish from among the offerings.
The event will feature a silent auction and opportunities to win cash. Television personality Anne Shannon will be the celebrity hostess. The evening will also include information about two additional programs offered by New Choices: New Beginnings and Generations Realizing Occupational Wellness (GROW). New Beginnings is a program for incarcerated women who are 30 to 90 days away from being released.
"We are working to get them to successfully transition out of prison," Nabors said. "We are trying to reduce recidivism by trying to help them change their mindset."
The GROW program is a new initiative available for parents, both men and women, between the ages of 18 and 35 who are unemployed or underemployed and may not have enough income, career skills, or household budget skills to give their children access to a better life. Nabors is working on taking these classes to communities around the county.
Tickets for Taste of Success may be purchased at http://www.newchoiceslancaster.org. Donations will be accepted at the website as well. According to Nabors, the fundraising target for the event is $80,000.
"(New Choices of) Lancaster will serve 160 new clients in 2016," Nabors said. "We always have a waiting list."
For more information about New Choices, readers may visit the website, find the organization on Facebook and Twitter, or call 393-1735, ext. 236.