Here’s What You Don’t Know About Unemployment

Crystal Odom-McKinney was named one of Chicago Defender’s Women of Excellence Honorees.

It’s hard not to notice the media’s attention on COVID-19 and its impact on employment. Since 9.6 million people lost their jobs in the U.S., it makes sense. However, very little spotlight is put on the 5.7 million workers ages 55 and up that lost their jobs during March and April of 2020 alone. Currently, older workers are 17 percent more likely to become unemployed than their slightly younger peers (AARP). Perhaps there is a sentiment that this issue only concerns matters of retirement. Some may believe that people entering retirement just need to be a little scrappier with their finances, but in the end, they’ll be okay. Crystal Odom-McKinney knows there’s more at stake than that.

Crystal Odom-McKinney is the National Director of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) at Easterseals. SCSEP is the largest federally funded program for older job seekers. After over 20 years managing nonprofit programs and working with underserved populations, Odom-McKinney has a deep understanding about how complex an issue like unemployment can be for communities that often don’t get as much attention. For her work, Odom-McKinney was recently honored at 15th Annual Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Awards, which celebrates local African American women who inspire others through their vision and leadership. During National Employ Older Workers Week, we thought it would be a great time ask a few questions about what this award means to her and why she is so passionate about the work that she does.

What does being recognized as a Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Honoree mean to you?

It is such an honor to be recognized for what I do both inside and outside of work.  I give all gratitude to my family, friends, and community, because this is what drives my purpose.  One of my favorite quotes by Mahatma Gandhi is “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

Why is it important that we recognize National Employ Older Workers Week?

Mature job seekers remain a vital part of the workforce. First, we are living longer healthier lives. We have more options now and retirement is just one. Many return to work to pursue different types of disciplines. That said, mature adults also bring unique value to companies and organizations with attributes such as reliability, dependability and a unique perspective due to life experiences. Employers need to be educated on the myths and truths about hiring workers.  For example, retraining or retaining mature workers may be more cost-effective than hiring and onboarding their younger counterparts.

Why are Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) services important to meet the needs of communities today?

I have many stories from the field where I’ve been told, “this program changed my life.”  But there is one powerful story about a job seeker who said this program saved her life. This particular SCSEP participant overcame obstacles like homelessness, unemployment, learning challenges with technology, ending an abusive toxic relationship, and seeking out support for her mental wellness.  On many occasions, she felt hopeless and that no one cared.  Since enrolling in the SCSEP program, opportunities opened in every way: she now has a home and steady income. She’s learning new skills, is comfortable using a computer, and has support on her mental wellness journey from years of being unheard.

And this is what it is all about. SCSEP is about bringing hope back to those who felt like every door was shut on them. It’s about providing opportunities and options for those who need that added support. It’s about bringing harmony to communities across the country through training opportunities at local organizations.  We’re sharing these stories with lawmakers in D.C. to have elected officials reach out to local businesses and encourage the employment of these job seekers. This is the magic of the SCSEP program and why it is so important!


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  1. Andrew Williams Says:

    I am happy for Chicago but I’m more interested in St. Louis.

  2. Toni Says:

    How do i find out information about the scsep program in Benton County in Corvallis, Oregon?? Any info would be greatly appreciated, since i am looking for work. Thank You!

  3. Karl Crosby Says:

    How do you get into SCSEP in Baltimore, Maryland?
    Thank you

  4. G Tolbert Says:

    The work being done by SCSEP is phenomenal and I know first hand because at the age of 58 to the age of 66 I benefited from gaining employment and independence through the program.

    Senior Citizens feel useful again once they are trained to the new technology and get back into the workforce.
    Easter Seals is one organization that understands the importance of feeling valued and respected after the age of 55. The work is great. Congratulations to Crystal McKinney for her recognition and hard work.

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