A Sumter success story below the clouds

Business, community leaders form motivational job-search ‘Dream Team’

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 1/14/18

At times, we all need a little help to get over life's hurdles.

That was the case for Garfield Williams when he moved to Sumter in late 2016 from his native Jamaica.

Williams, his wife, Althia, and their two children moved here permanently …

This item is available in full to subscribers

A Sumter success story below the clouds

Business, community leaders form motivational job-search ‘Dream Team’

Sumter City Councilman and "Dream Team" member Calvin Hastie, left, shakes hands with Garfield Williams on Friday at Hastie Law Firm, 7 E. Hampton Ave.
Sumter City Councilman and "Dream Team" member Calvin Hastie, left, shakes hands with Garfield Williams on Friday at Hastie Law Firm, 7 E. Hampton Ave.
BRUCE MILLS / THE SUMTER ITEM
Posted

At times, we all need a little help to get over life's hurdles.

That was the case for Garfield Williams when he moved to Sumter in late 2016 from his native Jamaica.

Williams, his wife, Althia, and their two children moved here permanently from Kingston in November 2016 after his wife obtained a multi-year contract school teaching position in Greeleyville in Williamsburg County.

An experienced electrician by trade in his homeland with a desire to one day move back, Williams decided to maintain his Jamaican citizenship. That meant to work here, he had to first obtain a work permit.

Williams earned that permit in April 2017 and was looking forward to finding work in the electrical field.

However, today's typical job hunting techniques - which often initially involve online job applications followed by phone calls with impersonal recruiters - didn't work into Williams' favor.

It took a connection to a group of local business leaders with the desire to give back to the community and help others in need - called the "Dream Team" - to get Williams over the hump, he said.

Williams said his job hunting on the computer would lead to calls from recruiters and human resource representatives, but when Williams told them that he wasn't a U.S. citizen, the other end of the line would grow cold.

"They would just hang-up, and I was cut off," Williams said. "I didn't even get a 'have a nice day' before they hung-up."

Though he speaks fluent English, he said he tries to speak slowly so people can understand him through a thick Jamaican accent.

Frustrated and "getting nowhere" in the job hunt after at least 10 hang-up calls last summer, the 41-year-old said he thought of moving back home.

That was when the pastor at his church, Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church, referred him to attorney and Sumter City Councilman Calvin Hastie, who is a Dream Team member and holds the group's meetings twice a month at his downtown law office, 7 E. Hampton Ave.

After attending his first Dream Team meeting in August, it was then that Williams's fortunes began to turn.

After redoing his resume at SC Works in a style more appropriate for the U.S. - as opposed to Jamaica - and a few more Dream Team meetings, Hastie and others stressed to Williams to be proactive and physically go out to businesses and fill out applications.

"It's something we tell everyone we come across," Hastie said. "We, as the Dream Team, encourage everyone to show initiative to help yourself."

In September, Williams said, he interviewed for a machinery maintenance technician position with Thompson Construction Group onsite at Caterpillar Hydraulics manufacturing plant on Wise Drive. Thompson is the contractor for all local machinery maintenance at Caterpillar.

After a second interview, Williams said, he was offered the job in early October and began working at the plant. His salary is $30,000-plus, and he's about to go on a benefits plan after recently completing his initial 90-day probationary period.

Williams said he enjoys his work because it's similar to his experience in Jamaica and that he appreciates Hastie and the Dream Team's efforts.

"The Dream Team got me over the hump and gave me the confidence to go out there to visit businesses," Williams said. "Mr. Hastie knows how to motivate people of all backgrounds."

Hastie said he's happy for Williams.

"I'm excited that he's employed and doing well," Hastie said. "He's a Dream Team 'success story.'"

More on the Dream Team

Other Dream Team members include Greg Thompson, owner of Thompson Construction Group, Teresa Norman, human resources manager at Thompson, Isaac Carr of Ameriprise Financial, and Esmonde Levy of Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments, among others.

All say they want to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate in Sumter and offer assistance to help get them employed. The group has been meeting since April 2016, being a resource to help unemployed residents get back on their feet.

According to Levy, the team partly serves as a forum to advertise to job seekers various free resources available to them locally for job hunting. Those include SC Works, 31 E. Calhoun St., for resume writing and other services, S.C. Vocational Rehab, 1760 N. Main St., and Sumter County Department of Social Services, 105 Magnolia St.

The Dream Team also exists to personally motivate and inspire people to keep moving forward, according to team members.

Hastie said the Dream Team is planning a Jan. 30 event at Thompson's downtown headquarters to showcase Williams's and several others' success story. He said he hopes the event will motivate others to seek help and also connect the Dream Team to more businesses in the community.