Unemployed can find daily jobs, charity money

By Jill Houser | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Several St. Johns County residents have traded in their suits and ties for ankle high work boots, hoping to get a job.

“It’s really sad,” Julie Tucker, customer service representative at Labor Ready in St. Augustine, said. “These aren’t homeless men. These are men who lost their jobs as actual business owners.”

Labor Ready sees an average of 50 people a day and offer jobs for about 75 percent of them. Labor Ready provides jobs in construction, waste and recycling.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December 2009, the Jacksonville area has an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent. Some locals try hard to not become just another statistic. Tucker said that one man in particular drives a garbage truck for Labor Ready in the morning and works at the new Zaxby’s restaurant at night.

Some people are not as willing. Tori Von Essen, a junior at Flagler College, said she needs more motivation. Von Essen lost her job at Peace Frogs in downtown St. Augustine when it closed in December due to low sales.

“I’m desperate for money but I will never be desperate enough to work for a labor pool or for McDonald’s,” Von Essen said. She has applied for four jobs since December. On Tuesday she applied at Barns and Noble in St. Augustine. “I know I’m closed minded but I want a job I will like,” Von Essen said.

Being selective could work in Von Essen’s favor. Brad West, assistant store manager at Barns and Noble, said that desperation is negative. “If they are too desperate for a job they usually don’t really want to be here so they’ll end up quitting,” West said.

West said that Barns and Noble receives two or three applications a day. It doesn’t hire often and chooses people who are flexible and good at reacting in stressful situations.

Many families in St. Johns County are trying to survive in the added anxiety of the job market. Becky Stringer, executive director for the Catholic Charities-St. Augustine Regional Office, helps people who have families whose hours have been cut. “We are a homeless prevention program,” Stringer said.

“These are people who have always worked. This may be their first time asking someone for help,” Stringer said. The Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. helped 12,000 people last year with utilities and food, giving away a total of $100,000.

Stringer collects funds from individuals but receives stable funding from United Way of St. Johns County. David Hoak, associate executive for United Way said, “It’s been a tough fundraising year.” Most of the United Way staff is in meetings this week trying to figure out how to divide funds between their 34 different social service partners to help people with needs, such as unemployment, for 2010.

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