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Faces of unemployment

Craig Dobbe, of Crystal Lake, was laid off from his executive level job at a Chicago-area manufacturing facility in September.
Craig Dobbe, of Crystal Lake, was laid off from his executive level job at a Chicago-area manufacturing facility in September.

Reyes Martinez spends two to three hours a day at the Workforce Network in Woodstock.

A recent heavy snowstorm wasn't enough to stop her. Her job search not only is relentless, but it’s also vital.

“I get up in the morning, take my daughter to school, come here for two or three hours, then if I have to make any more applications in person, I go do that,” she said. “I check with all the agencies in the local towns – in Crystal Lake and McHenry – because I’m applying to everyone.”

Martinez, 42, lost her job as nursing aide at a nursing home a little more than a month ago.

She has yet to collect unemployment.

But the Woodstock resident has a 17-year-old daughter to provide for.

And it wasn't Christmas presents that she was worried about.

“I’m more worried about trying to keep a roof over my head because with holidays, you can always give a gift to anybody,” Martinez said. “It’s just trying to keep the roof over your head, and keeping the belly of the children full.”

Her daughter baby-sits and cleans houses, but that won’t be enough for the family.

“It’s scary. Very, very scary,” Martinez said. “It’s also degrading that I have to pretty much depend on my daughter.”

• • •

McHenry County's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in October 2008 versus 3.8 percent in October 2007, according to the latest information available from the Illinois Employment Security Web site.

Try calling the McHenry County Workforce Network, and you’re likely to understand that increase firsthand – you won’t even be able to get through.

“That [phone] line has been busy for almost six weeks,” said Julie Courtney, the program’s director. “People call and call and can’t get through.”

The center has been bombarded with about 800 phone calls a day. It offers a guide to the maze of programs available to those without jobs, from government-paid training opportunities to résumé help.

“We’re doing the best we can to service the people,” Courtney said. “I would say it’s definitely overwhelming.”

• • •

Amanda Crawford can’t get child care.

Yes, she knows a number of charity and state agencies would watch her 7-month-old daughter, Dannika, for free – but only if Crawford, 30, already has a job to go to.

She doesn’t.

And she needs child care while she looks.

“If it was summertime, I would just throw her in her caboose and walk all over town,” she said. “But it’s not. It’s too cold for me to drag her out there.”

Besides, she said, that’s not very professional.

“I think it’s wrong to walk into a potential job to pick up a job application with a baby on your hip,” she said. “I don’t think it looks right.”

She lost her job at a grocery store about a year ago. More than 40 applications later, she’s still unemployed.

“I’ve had applications everywhere, including McDonald’s,” she said. “I’ve done a bunch of applications online; it just didn’t work.”

Crawford said she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.

“It’s always been easy for me to find a job,” she said. “Just give me a job. I don’t care what it is. I’ll flip burgers at McDonald’s.”

• • •

Walk into the resource center at Public Action to Deliver Shelter, ask whether anyone is looking for work, and a few dozen or so hands will shoot up. Then come the questions. Everyone asks whether there’s a job to be had.

Scott Block, PADS program director, said the need for the center’s services keeps increasing. Last year, the organization served about 400 people. It's on track to serve 450 this year.

“We’ve always got several people out here,” he said. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in our clientele.”

One of PADS’ services is a day center, which provides access to computers and case workers for unemployed residents. Then, at night, the center provides bus transportation between church sites for the homeless.

Block said the decrease in available jobs means even access to the right resources doesn’t help much.

“It’s very hard,” he said.

• • •

Todd Bedgood’s not yet overwhelmed with his thus-far fruitless job search.

Yes, he’s been laid off twice in three months.

Yes, he’s filled out 50 applications.

Yes, he’s homeless.

But his faith in God is strong.

“I take these trials and tribulations as something to learn from and grow from,” he said. 

The 40-year-old McHenry County resident relies on help from a local homeless center run by PADS. It’s an organization he himself volunteered for years ago when times were better.

“I’ve got hope,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the same position. It’s a sluggish economy.”

When the weather was nicer, he’d go from storefront to storefront.

“I would start off in Cary because there’s a church site in Cary and ... and I used to walk all the way up Route 14 and apply at every different retail store all the way up to Crystal Lake,” he said.

Right now, he’d take any job, he said.

“You can’t be choosy,” he said. “Anything’s better than nothing.”
• • •

Nancy Wenzel, owner of Working World Staffing Services in Crystal Lake and Fox Lake, said her company has noticed the rise in unemployed residents. But it’s also noticed a change in who is unemployed.

“There’s more people at higher levels than ever before. More high-level management-type people than we have ever seen,” she said. “I have to be honest; I don’t have that type of position available.”

To compound the problem of the increased number of people looking for work, fewer employers are looking for workers, she said.

“Because of the so-called recession, companies are calling us for fewer people,” Wenzel said. “It’s six to eight at a time, whereas before it was 12 to 15.”

• • •

Craig Dobbe worked for the same manufacturing company for 36 years.

He was the director of general accounting.

Dobbe, 59, remembers the day he lost his job. 

“I’m the kind of guy who arrives to work early, I got a call,” Dobbe said. “The VP of [human resources] was there, and they said, ‘Well we’ve blah blah blah and unfortunately we’ve had to eliminate your position. Sorry.' ”

The Crystal Lake resident has been out of work since September. The severance payments and unemployment run out in February.

Dobbe has been in touch with temp agencies and other employment offices.

He’s hasn’t had much luck, though. He believes his age is to blame.

“It’s against the law to discriminate, but it happens and people do, and that’s just the reality of the job world today,” he said. “I’m adjusting myself to that, but I’m going to fight and try to get at least a foot in the door. I’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge, and could do a great job for people.”

He said he doesn’t plan to give up hope.

“I’m fit, I’m healthy, and I want to work, and I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon,” Dobbe said. “I’ve got a good 10 to 15 years. I want to work; I don’t want to sit at home.”

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