Soaring to New Heights
Written by Katie Lovett, Photography by Kevin Harkins, Merrimack Valley Magazine
Lazarus House Offers Work Training and a Way Out of Poverty
Maria Montero opens the photo gallery on her phone and proudly shows off images of her delectable creations. The pictures evoke knowing grins and murmurs of approval from her attentive audience.
Montero is a success story.
She is one the scores of graduates of the Work Preparation Training program offered by Lazarus House Ministries. The Lawrence-based social services agency provides multiple options to help families and individuals find a path out of poverty and homelessness. Participants can sign up for ESOL, pre-employment skills or culinary training. Another option is the Spark*L.E. program that provides training for residential, office and industrial cleaning.
Montero enrolled in the food training course four years ago. At its completion, she took a paid internship at a local preschool. After completion, she was offered a job in the kitchen at a nursing home. From there she started Dulces Marion, a Dominican dessert business she operates out of her Whitman Street home. “The program will change your life,” Montero says while sitting in a conference room at Lazarus House with two proud daughters who help with the business.
Montero’s story and others are rewarding and encouraging, but should not be surprising, say the staff at Lazarus House. “The key is to somehow remind them of how valuable they are,” says former executive director Bridget Shaheen. Shaheen, who retired in June after 36 years at the Lazarus House, says she was blessed by the opportunity to know people they serve.
Staff at Lazarus House repeatedly sees the dedication of the students who enroll in the work preparation training programs. They form bonds, study together, give each other rides and offer support.