Faith Solano, who works in marketing with the Homecrafters building company, says the Life-Work Planning Center, which turns 30 this year, helped her turn her life around.

Pat Christman
The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Nothing tells the story of the Life-Work Planning Center quite like, well, a story.

So here’s one.

It’s about a woman named Leila Boulester, who after escaping from an abusive husband came to Life-Work Planning Center for help.

Boulester was uncertain what she wanted to do with her life, so LWPC helped her figure it out. Today she’s working with children, which she’s good at. And she’s happier than she’s been in a long time.

Here’s another story about LWPC, which turns 30 this year. This one’s about a woman named Faith Solano.

Like Boulester, Solano saw her marriage fail. She was left with six kids and questions about what she was going to do for income. She came to LWPC, and they helped find her money to buy textbooks so she could enroll in the marketing program at South Central College.

She graduated, found a job and today is a strong, professional woman who overcame great obstacles to get where she is.

Both women say their success would have been a lot harder to come by had it not been for Life-Work Planning Center.

Jean Willaert, LWPC’s executive director, said the organization has been a source of support for women who find themselves in situations where, without a little help, their lives could have been much less productive.

With the right help, they can manage difficult lives that may include raising children or seeking job training or higher education, etc.

“Women need flexibility,” Willaert said. “They have to become the primary breadwinners.”

LWPC was incorporated in 1979 to serve displaced homemakers. Its Displaced Homemaker Program is funded with revenue generated from marriage license and divorce filing fees. In 1984 LWPC began offering services to other women in transition. That programming is funded primarily through six area United Ways, foundation grants and private donations.

And since 1993 it has offered services to Latino young women and girls. That program, called Project Succeed, is currently funded by grants from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs and the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. Last year, they helped 572 women and girls.

(LWPC will also work with men, but usually on a one-on-one basis instead of in groups with other women. Some of the women have been victims of domestic abuse, and because some of the program’s functions rely heavily on group discussions, some of those women don’t feel comfortable sharing about their abusive relationships with men present.)

Says the program’s literature, “We offer the opportunity to gain skills and confidence needed to become self-sufficient. We prepare women to secure better-paying jobs, more satisfying employment and overcome barriers to rewarding work.”

LWPC has helped thousands of women over the years. Boulester was one of them.

She said she was in “a bad situation that was getting worse.”

“He murdered our pets,” Boulester said. “We were afraid we’d be next.”

She came to LWPC and was encouraged to take both workshops. She said they helped her realize her strengths, and that despite the fact that she’d been on an emotional roller coaster, there was hope.

“My whole problem was I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Boulester said.

LWPC helped her realize she’d be happiest working with children, and that’s what she’s doing today. She’s working for a child care center.

Solano’s experience with LWPC also was spurred by a failed marriage.

She was born and raised just outside of Mankato, where her father was an organic farmer. She’s remained in the area ever since. She got married and with her husband had six children. And when the marriage ended, she was on her own with the kids.

Solano said she was getting by, but she wasn’t getting by easily, and she certainly wasn’t happy.

“I was in tears all the time,” she said. “My life was so wrecked up.”

One day, while making a stop at her divorce lawyer’s office, she glanced across the hall and noticed the Life-Work Planning Center. She stopped in and enrolled in the Personal Growth and Career Development workshop.

LWPC helped her visualize a new career, and even found her some money to purchase textbooks for her marketing classes.

And while looking for a place to live, she stumbled upon a company called Homecrafters. After learning more about them, and with fresh skills acquired in college, she decided to ask them for a job. They agreed.

She credits LWPC with helping her get there.

“They helped me reframe a difficult situation in my life,” Solano said, “and put it in a more positive light.”

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