The Long Island Breakfast Club was founded in 2006, an organization providing advocacy, support, career, employment counseling, referrals and good old-fashioned laughter to prepare mature individuals for productive employment. Counted among the membership are women and men who have recently been downsized and looking for support to continue positive reinforcement to gain employment back in the corporate world. Membership is encouraged for any individuals who need the extra support to continue momentum in searching for jobs in the mid-life years.
Croissants, coffee and career counseling
Long Island Breakfast Club sees success in finding professionals employment
By Dana Williams
From being featured on a segment of CNN’s “Money & Main St.” with Anderson Cooper and ABC’s “News Now” with Tory Johnson, to appearing in a documentary about ageism that is scheduled to appear in the Long Island Film Expo on Friday, the club is currently opening up doors to help make its purpose known on an international level.The club officially formed in 2006 after five middle-aged, unemployed Long Island residents became inspired to help other people find jobs. The group, which included three West Hempstead residents at the time, met at a diner for breakfast each week to discuss interview horror stories and brainstorm ways they could remain optimistic through their search for a new job.
“We decided to call ourselves the Long Island Breakfast Club because while we ate breakfast, we discussed how we could help ourselves and other experienced professionals who are over 40 find jobs,” explained West Hempstead resident Valentina Janek, one of the club’s founders and its current president. “What we’re doing is different, and it’s needed in the world that we’re living in today, where seasoned professionals have a difficult time finding a job.”
The organization provides employment and career counseling, workshops, interviewing classes and referrals, among other assistance, to help those who are seeking employment after losing jobs in their mid-life years. The club also hosts meetings each month, which includes sessions at which attendees can discuss their job interview stories and listen to motivational speeches. The club has grown from five to 190 members since its inception, and it includes residents from Nassau and Suffolk counties. To date, 87 members have found jobs.
“When people come to the club’s meetings, we try to help them forget about the interviews that didn’t go well for them, and get them more focused on re-inventing and preparing themselves for the next interview,” said West Hempstead resident Chris Fidis, another co-founder of the group. “These meetings are all about getting people inspired to move forward because finding a new job after working many years at a particular job can be very difficult.”
“What’s great about the club is that you meet people in a similar situation as yourself, and the camaraderie that exists at the meetings helps people to realize that they’re not alone,” added West Hempstead resident Terese Russo Santoro, the club’s marketing specialist. “It’s a positive atmosphere at the meetings where people also network to help find a job.”
Club founders also contend that some of the services that the organization provides should be viewed as unique. At the meetings, several guest speakers are simply there to help bring a little laughter to those sitting in the audience. The club also encourages job-seekers to consider pursuing a new career or something they are passionate about in between their job search.
The club has also expanded its services to include a free ride on a 10-year-old horse named Oopsy at the Lakewood Stables in West Hempstead. Alex Jacobson, the owner of the stables and a Baldwin Harbor resident, said that when members visit the stables to go on a trail ride with Oopsy, it helps them to relax for a little while and eventually enables them to regain their job hunting confidence and energy.
And news about the club’s efforts is starting to spread internationally.
After being interviewed live by Cooper on June 18, the club was featured on a news segment with Johnson on July 1. Then, just a hour after the Herald interviewed Fidis on July 2, he spoke about the club on a radio talk show in Japan. The club is scheduled to appear on a segment on Verizon’s FiOS1 Long Island news channel on Saturday.
“The response to the club is growing because the services that we provide literally fit into what’s going on in the economy today,” Fidis said. “The club is able to stand out because we have a job success ratio and our approach is unique. We’re a different kind of organization because we’re a support group and we help people get re-energized, so they can get back out there and find a job.”
What is frustrating officials in the club, however, is that they have garnered very little support from local government on Long Island, which is where many of the members live. For the past two years, members said, they have been reaching out to their elected officials on both the town and county levels for assistance, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.
“The club is making great progress in terms of helping people find jobs, and we just feel that more of our local elected officials should help with what our organization is trying to do,” said the club’s vice president, Stephanie Carlino, who spoke about this issue during the recent ABC interview. “We’re trying to help a specific age group here and we understand that middle-aged professionals are not the majority of people who are unemployed. However, we still feel that our local government can do more to support our initiatives that help to find experienced and middle-aged people jobs.”
For more information, go to longislandbreakfastclub.org.
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DWilliams@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 205.