Know your (strength) zone

National Dislocated Worker Grant puts employees in temporary positions

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

In Florida, the expression Know Your Zone refers to the evacuation zone your home lies in. This knowledge helps to ensure you are following the most relevant evacuation orders during an emergency. But after an emergency, in the midst of debris clean-up, home restoration and restocking emptied refrigerators, many individuals find themselves searching for another zone.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, some residents across southwest Florida are in need of a new job. This may be due to relocation or a closed business or any number of hurricane-related issues. Alexandra Shoenmakers found herself in this situation.

“After the hurricane, I moved from North Fort Myers to Englewood,” Alexandra told me. While she had never heard about the employment assistance options through CareerSource before, she happened to stumble upon the National Dislocated Worker Grant program. She went through an extremely thorough application and interview process to drill down on her strengths and ensure she was placed in just the right position.

Leadership expert John Maxwell emphasizes the value of putting people in their strength zones. In his book, “The 360 Degree Leader”, he states, “it doesn’t matter what kind of a team you’re leading. If you don’t place people in their strength zones, you’re making it almost impossible for them – and you – to win.”
When you are recovering from a hurricane, this is not the time you want to mess with a proven strategy like Maxwell’s. CareerSource Southwest Florida takes this leadership principle to heart when placing individuals in new careers through the National Dislocated Worker Grant program.

Bill Welch, Business Services Director explained to me that this program is funded by Federal dollars that come through a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity grant, and covers workers in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties. “It’s primarily for individuals who were affected by Hurricane Ian,” Bill said.
The program has a thorough vetting process for applicants, aiming to ensure a good fit for their new job opportunity. The positions are temporary jobs that provide a steady income, skill building opportunities and transition time to an employee’s next position. CareerSource assists participants in the program in finding permanent work once their grant-funded position runs out.

Alexandra was placed in a full time position in our United Way of Charlotte County office, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on our team. She is filling an administrative gap we had following the hurricane, due to an influx of financial assistance requests. With our lower capacity to fundraise, having Alexandra’s position fully funded by this grant has been an incredible blessing. She is definitely working in her strengths, and it has proven to be a win-win for all of us.

“I’m so grateful to be placed here and helping people in the community who need help after Ian,” Alexandra said. “CareerSource put me on the right path.”
Alexandra is just one success story from the work of this grant program, and the opportunity is still available for others who are in need. Amy Hanna-Eckenrode, Communications Director for CareerSource Southwest Florida, said, “As so many areas continue to recover and get past the disaster, we still have a lot of neighbors who are in need. CareerSource wants to be there to put Southwest Florida back to work.”

To get connected to a career that puts you in your strength zone, visit and click on Disaster Resources under the banner. If you prefer to begin your journey to a new career in person, bring your ID card and social security card, if available, to any of their centers on a Tuesday. Locations are listed at and are open from 8 am to 5 pm.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at