When Mark Wurst found himself unemployed three years ago, he decided to take action.
"I didn't just sit at home. I sent out lots of resumes, and then I heard about Experience Works through PA CareerLink," the 56-year-old Duncansville man said.
Experience Works is a national, charitable, community-based organization. It has grown to be the nation's leading provider of training, employment and community service for low-income older people.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Mark Wurst chats with resident Barbara Cherry at the counter of the snack shop at Valley View Home.
Wurst, a Clifton, N.J., native, who is a snack shop attendant at Valley View Home, will receive Experience Works Participant Champion Award today during a ceremony at the Van Zandt VA Medical Center.
The Experience Works program placed Wurst at Valley View, where he has worked under Volunteer Coordinator Bill Mangiacarne.
"He did many things like transport residents, fill water pitchers, helped out at the snack shop, a little bit of everything at Valley View," Mangiacarne said. "He was a great help to me in the snack shop. We had a person leave, and I brought him in, and he did a great job."
Wurst was nominated for the award by Betty Baktis, former employment and training coordinator for Experience Works in Blair County.
"He exemplifies the word champion because of his attitude and what he has done in the program. Of all the people I worked with, he stood out," Baktis said. "He had lost a job and was very motivated to not give up. He has a great attitude, and he goes above and beyond what was expected from a participant in the program."
Mangiacarne said Wurst is very deserving of the award.
"He very much deserves it. He is a very bubbly person, a real people person, he enjoys being around people," Mangiacarne said. "He is very good with our elderly residents."
Wurst said he was surprised and humbled by the award.
"There are so many people who could have won the award, perhaps there were some more deserving than me," he said.
Wurst said he was very impressed with the Experience Works program.
"The concept is to take seniors who have gifts and talents back into the workforce. You have seniors well versed in business and related fields who can give back to the community," Wurst said.
Wurst said he is not sure how long he will stay at Valley View.
He is an ordained Lutheran pastor and helps out at Duncansville Evangelical Lutheran Church. He also is a substitute school teacher for the Spring Cove School District and has been the caregiver for his 93-year-old mother.
"I will not be here forever," Wurst said. "I may go back to the ministry full time. This is good decent work and gives me financial stability. That is what many of our seniors need."