The recession is swelling the rolls of clients seeking a new start and a path to a better job.
Carrie Daniels, an inspiring businesswoman and mother, appeared last week at an early morning breakfast at a Bloomington Hotel to inspire several hundred staff, clients and volunteers of a venerable nonprofit called Resource Inc.
These folks could use a boost, as the ranks of the Minnesota unemployed grew by nearly 100,000 over the last year and our unemployment rate hit 8.2 percent in March.
Resource, whose client rolls swelled from 17,000 in 2007 to 21,000 unemployed workers and 4,000 kids in 2008, operates a variety of time-tested programs. They involve helping out-of-work white- and pink-collar workers; counseling hundreds of job-hungry veterans, and mentoring hundreds of working-poor single moms seeking to advance beyond low-wage, no-benefit jobs. Resource also helps hundreds of folks and their families who struggle with mental health and drug addiction to get healthy and to get jobs.
About $19 million of Resource's $25 million annual budget comes from contracts with local, state and federal agencies. But government support is expected to decline this year.
Resource, which also raises $6 million annually from program fees and donations, spends about $1,000 per client per year through its counseling, training and other programs.
"There isn't a program we operate that we couldn't double or triple in size," said Deborah Atterberry, Resource's long-time president. "Our walk-in sites in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park report sixfold increases in people walking in the door for help."
Today Daniels, 43, is a project manager at Upsher-Smith, the pharmaceutical firm where she makes more than $75,000 a year. She is attractive, articulate and together. A decade ago, she was a depressed, abandoned mother of four who had just lost her $26,000-a-year job at a shelter for abused women. Then she found Resource.
Her volunteer mentor in Resource's Women Achieving New Directions program was Linda Peterson, an Upsher-Smith employee who conducted a self-esteem workshop for Daniels and some other women in the program.
"It was great to hear somebody say, 'You're a good mom, you have skills.''' Daniels said in an interview. "I had office skills. I learned to take it one step at a time and to set goals. The people at Resource helped me borrow clothes for work from a 'clothes closet' until I could afford some of my own."
Today, Daniels, whose children are doing well in high school and college, is a confident professional, a happy taxpayer and a grateful Resource volunteer.
More clients expected
The folks at Resource expect even more business this year, about 23,000 clients. The human face of a recession can be ugly: joblessness, mortgage foreclosures, fractured families, chemical dependency, depression and worse.
However, there is always hope among good people. And victories to celebrate. During several hours knocking around with Resource in recent weeks, I'm pleased to report that:
• Camille Hyke, who was laid off by CVS, then Wal-Mart, because of slipping sales, is an assistant store manager with Dollar Stores.
• Kristen Knock, who lost a job at North Memorial Medical Center several months ago, has found a part-time job at Park Nicollet's Methodist Hospital at the same wage. She also is making wedding and prom dresses.
• An analyst who lost a $68,000 job last year at slumping ResCap, the mortgage company, last month began a $75,000 job at Pearson VUE in Bloomington, added Resource counselor Don Sletten.
On Friday, I met with a man named Agnelo, who has worked on cruise ships and restaurants at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He is as articulate as any six-figure executive and speaks several languages. A divorce, a bout of unemployment and a relapse into alcoholism caused him to lose his apartment and end up homeless.
Feeling worthless and suicidal, Agnelo turned to Robert Hoffman, a member of the staff at the homeless shelter at Simpson United Methodist Church in south Minneapolis. Working with Resource counselor Steve Carlson, Agnelo, an Indian immigrant, is enrolled in Resource's Spectrum Community Health program and attending life-skills classes.
"I've been sober for months, don't have panic attacks anymore and I like talking to people again," said Agnelo, who has a small room in a men's residence run by Catholic Charities. "I blame myself, mismanaging money, my job, my health and losing hope.
"Now, I'm moving forward with intentions of employment, self-sufficiency and giving back to the people who have helped me here. There is support at Resource."
Agnelo, 54, will be a great find for a resurgent Twin Cities business one day soon.
Neal St. Anthony • Neal.St.Anthony @startribune.com • 612.673.7144