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Job and Health Fairs Seek to Improve ShareFest

Despite low turnout, the new health and job fairs were a new facet to the annual volunteerism event, and the ShareFest director hopes they will improve more next year.

With unemployment in Illinois at about 9.5 percent, you’d think people would jump at the opportunity to interview with employers or get their kids a free dental cleaning.

People in the area had that chance last weekend when the annual ShareFest volunteerism event in New Lenox expanded this year to offer a health fair and jobs fair. But turnout was a bit low in the fairs’ first year, spurring some thought to how to improve events in coming years.

“I was a little disappointed in our job fair,” ShareFest director Gary Cheney said. “We had four or five companies that didn’t show up. We’ll learn from that.”

ShareFest is an annual event that aims to help people the community through various service projects and charitable collections of books, clothing, food and more. It was extremely successful this year after , but Cheney said he’s already starting to think about improving the job and health fairs for next year.

The group still has some service projects to knock out, but after that Cheney said the planning committee will meet to reflect on this year’s ShareFest and suggest new ideas for 2012. This year, Kristi Kelly of St. Francis University helped run a career service workshop the day before the job fair. It provided resume critiques, mock interviews and more to help prepare job-seekers for the following day.

But next year, Cheney said the career service day (which went really well) could be moved to an earlier day to give people more time, and the job fair would be on a Friday so it would be easier for businesses to get out than a Saturday. Despite some of the first-year bumps, Cheney said there were some success stories.

“I did talk to one of the employers there and she said she took 10 excellent resumes,” he said. “She told me she was going to contact them for follow-up interviews.”

Other employers said they were primarily offering part-time jobs, but many people came out looking for full-time work. Karen DesJardins, of , said the crowd wasn’t huge, but there was a “steady flow” of people throughout the day.

“I wish it was longer,” she said. “The more people we can reach the more people we can educate.”

The health fair offered free teeth cleanings for children, free medical screenings and lots more, though some participants said attendance was pretty low. But that didn’t deter them from wanting to join up again next year.

“I just wanted to help,” said Andrew Flores, a dental hygienist who provided free children’s cleanings. “Kids tend to forget their teeth.”

The ShareFest committee will meet the last Tuesday of the month to discuss future plans, Cheney said.

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