Arline’s story is one of resilience and grit. Things were quite different in the 1950s when Arline started her career. She remembers using typewriters to fill out forms with those little holes on the side that you had to tear off, along a perforated edge. After working for years as an executive secretary in Chicago, Arline and her husband quit their jobs, took a leap of faith, and bought a hotel in Sarasota, Fla.
For the next 20 years, she worked happily checking in guests, cleaning rooms, and maintaining the books. One day, a construction crew showed up to begin building a new high rise across the street. When the building was completed, it blocked their view of the ocean. They struggled to maintain the occupancy levels needed to sustain a profit, forcing them to make the difficult choice to sell.
After selling their hotel, Arline and her husband decided to move to Oklahoma to attend bible school. That is when her husband first became ill. Shortly after, her brother became ill as well, so she and her husband returned to Chicago, where Arline cared for them both until they passed away. With both of her sons still in the Sarasota area, Arline describes her return to Florida as a “crazy circle,” with one last stop in Oklahoma to finish the bible school she’d started so many years before.
Arline eventually became involved in the AARP Foundation’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which matches eligible older job seekers with local nonprofits and public agencies to help them increase their job skills and social capital. She worked at organizations such as the City of Sarasota, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, the Health Department and, most recently, Goodwill Manasota, where Arline helped job seekers participating in the Goodwill Job Connection program. Arline loved this job, as she enjoyed talking with all sorts of different people and liked to help schedule their appointments to meet with Carlos, the career development facilitator.
Recent health concerns – namely the COVID-19 pandemic – have limited Arline’s ability to participate in these types of work-experience programs. Arline began feeling lonely and isolated. Then, unexpectedly, she received a phone call from Carlos. He said he was calling to tell her about a pilot program, called “Tech Connect,” that Goodwill and Women’s Resource Center had partnered to create. He asked if she would be interested in participating in a program that would help her with her digital literacy skills and would reward her with a new laptop upon completion. Arline jumped at the opportunity!
Arline met with her Goodwill digital literacy coach twice a week until she completed her training plan. She learned how to use a computer to access the public library’s website. She practiced setting up and joining meetings using a cloud-based video conferencing platform. Arline brushed up on her Microsoft Office skills and had all of her questions regarding email subscriptions and internet security answered.
A few weeks ago, Arline took home her very own laptop. Now she knows how to access the internet all by herself. She learned how to use her new computer to pay her bills. She also knows how to check out books, stream audiobooks, and watch TV and movies using the library’s online catalog. She enjoys using the library’s website to research her genealogy. Arline says she cannot afford to pay for cable or TV but is happy that she has a computer and can access entertainment via YouTube and social media.
Arline is no longer feeling so isolated. She is thankful to have access to an online community of friends and to her family as well. Arline is sure that she will continue to be able to adjust to these changing times. Nowadays, thanks to the Tech to Connect pilot program, she has access to digital technology and knows how to use it! She is glad Goodwill was there to help her reconnect safely with the world around her.