Friday, April 17, 2009

The Declining Economy: Is Any One Recession-Proof?

My award winning recession story... I wrote this for school and the press of AC! :P

You finally have the American dream: A family, a good job and a house. You think you’re safe from the recession. Well, think again. What appears to be secure today could be gone tomorrow. The working middle class is only one group out of many that has become impaired because of our turbulent economy. Many senior citizens, singles, recently divorced people and even business owners are now hitting rough patches in their lives. These are the people you’d never expect to be in a needy situation. For the first time in their lives, many of these individuals are asking for help.

“Recently, I met a construction worker who couldn’t find work” says Ann Hartmann, president of the Tuckerton Area Inner Church Food Pantry, “He was a strapping guy...I never would have thought someone like him would need help.” Conversely, these are just the type of people Hartmann now sees on a regular basis.

“I’m the jack of all trades” says Hartmann, who has worked at the Pantry for over fifteen years. Hartmann runs the daily operations of the Pantry and organizes the volunteers. The pantry began in a local garage and now helps people from Eagleswood to New Gretna. Today, a tiny blue shed next the Little Egg Harbor recreation center is the home base for the pantry. “Space is troublesome in all food pantries…there’s just not enough of it,” says Hartmann. For much needed space, the pantry utilizes storage at a local churches and the VFW.

The pantry, which represents ten local churches, is open to anyone needing assistance. Volunteers screen applicants but don’t have the resources or time for background checks; they simply hope people are honest. The pantry is only open for ten hours a week but helps nearly 300 families a month. “The amount of people in need has been escalating in the past few months,” says Hartmann “One day recently we had twenty-four families come in.” Hartmann says that the rise in needy people is definitely due to the declining economy. According to The State of New Jersey’s website, unemployment rates are on the rise. In September, 6% of New Jersey’s population was unemployed. CNN puts New Jersey at the top of its Unemployment by State list.

Although, money is short for many people, kindness is not. The pantry has an abundance of volunteers. Over fifty people volunteer their time to make boxes for needy families. These boxes, which families receive twice a month, include staples like, bread, milk and chicken. There is no shortage of food on the shelves (and floors) of the pantry either. Thanks to food drives and generous donations by local residents, the pantry has more than enough food right now.

Why do so many people need assistance? US Attorney Legal Services states that foreclosure rates across the county have gone up 97% in the past year and New Jersey’s situation only continues to get worse. shows NJ as having 650 foreclosures since August; 310 in November alone. More and more families are losing their homes. Many can no longer afford their mortgage payment and selling their home may not even be an option anymore. Home values have dropped drastically nationwide. Many people can’t sell their house because they owe more on their loans then they could potentially profit from the sale. By 2009 The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey predicts that 1 in 5 loan mortgages in New Jersey will be in default. With such shocking statistics, it is no surprise that so many people are homeless.

Kathy Schmookler, Volunteer coordinator and development assistant at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, sees hundreds of homeless people daily. The rescue mission’s goal is to prevent homelessness but that’s not always possible. says that there are over 5,000 homeless people in the Atlantic City area alone. With the great amount of needy people in the area, the rescue mission faces an uphill battle daily.

Schmookler, who has worked in rescue missions for over thirty years, says “The economy has caused a swell in new clients.” Schmookler says that foreclosures, sudden losses of job, medical emergencies and other temporary issues have caused the additional need for assistance. “The working class is in need more than ever,” says Schmookler. Not only does the rescue mission provide shelter for the homeless but also supplies food baskets to needy families, work programs for the unemployed, addiction treatment, medical treatment and much more. “We’re like bookends…everything from homeless prevention to assisting people to they’re able to get their lives back to normal;” says schmookler “we’re holding their hands every step of the way.

“The biggest myth for us is that we’re just a soup kitchen,” says Schmookler “we do so much more than that.” The rescue mission has hundreds of volunteers and rarely has the need to recruit volunteers. “People realize there’s more demand [on the rescue mission] and come forward to help” says Schmookler. Although the rescue mission has an abundance of volunteers, they are still struggling for donations. Since the decline of the economy, the rescue mission has not been receiving the same amount of grants. Many of the foundations, who once gave thousands to the rescue mission, can no longer afford to donate at all. The working class, who has always donated food and money to rescue mission, can’t anymore because of their own financial hardships.

The economy is affecting everyone. Small business owners are feeling the strain of the recession as well. Common Folk Art owner Pam Valentine has been struggling to stay afloat since opening her store in 2006. “This year all around seems worse for my t-shirt business,” says Valentine in regards to declining sales. Custom t-shirts are a great novelty item yet her business is still in jeopardy. “When people are forced to scrimp just to pay bills…there is no room for impulse purchases’” says Valentine “Businesses like mine are suffering.” According to, half of all small businesses fail within four years. Valentine has been doing free-lance artwork, developing new ideas and desperately trying to expand her business through the internet to avoid closing her store.

Novelty stores like Common Folk Art aren’t the only businesses that are suffering. Casual eateries seem to be in jeopardy as well. “People who might in the past have gone out to eat twice a week are now staying at home for meals” says Valentine. She worries that all the independent restaurants, that are now vulnerable, will be bought up by large chains during the recession. She says that eventually this will also apply to large chain retailers that drive mom & pop stores out. “In the end, we all suffer from decreases in service, quality and variety” says Valentine.

Are any of us really recession-proof? It doesn’t seem like it anymore. Foreclosure, unemployment, financial hardship and homelessness can happen to anyone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm No Gold Digger...That's For Sure!

This rainy hump day really got me thinking about the past; specifically CSL. I’m glad that a year had passed and my ridiculous feelings have left the building known as my head! However, I’m still kind of angry. I’m sure I'll eventually forget, as I do most things but forgive? Nah, that ain’t happening! It’s nearly impossible to forget my time in NY. I can’t remember any good times. I can’t even remember any good times after I moved out! He conned me into thinking he was in love with me but that wasn’t the case!

He was so moody and not only was he shitty to me but to his mom as well. AND the worst part was that she was always so nice to him. The worst thing she ever did was ask him where he was going! That reminds me of the time when I came home at 9:30pm after 12 hours of work and school and he wasn’t home. I started getting worried. He was always home at that time. He wasn’t answering his phone and then he comes home like nothing was wrong. I asked him to just leave me a simple note saying where he was going and he flipped out; saying I’m controlling! Who knew caring was also known as controlling bitch!? Anyway, I’m the least jealous/nosy person ever! I never once looked at his phone or even thought he was cheating! This is precisely why he got away with cheating! I guess I’m the best person to cheat on…it’s like I’m in my own little bubble of faux happiness! I almost cheated on him once. There was this cute guy who always came to visit me at work. He bugged me for months about having a drink with him and so, one day I finally gave in. CSL was out with his friends and I figured it was just a drink. We went out for a few hours but then I started to feel guilty, so I went home. It turns out CSL wasn’t out with his friends. He had cooked me a romantic dinner and he even had wine! I felt pretty shitty about it but don’t start feeling bad for him; that was the like the only time he ever did anything sweet for me. AND I ALWAYS came home after work; he didn’t.

I’d like to go back to the fact that I went to school full-time and worked two shitty jobs while living with him. When I first moved to NY, I decided not to go to the gym and I LOVE the gym!! BUT I just couldn’t afford it. After 10 long weeks of feeling shitty and feeling like a fattie, he said he would pay for the gym. However, it always seemed like I was begging for the money every month. So, I decided to get a job at the daycare there! It was truly horrible. I always ended up having to watch 25 kids at one time. It’s kind of tough feeding 3 newborns and policing 12 toddlers at the same time. Let me just tell you this: It was shitty pay but at least going to the gym was free and I didn’t have to beg anymore!

I also asked him to pay for my birth control because after all, he didn’t want a baby either! And that was the SAME situation: Begging. He made me split the food shopping bill too. I mean seriously…$100 bucks a month was nothing to him. I knew how much he made because he made me a budget on excel. I saw his by accident and I almost cried. According to mine, I was negative $65 a month not including any unexpected expenses (god forbid I ever wanted to buy myself something!). My crappy retail job wasn’t paying anything either. I was working a two-person job for $10 an hour. I can’t believe I even worked for $10 an hour! What a freakin’ idiot! I watched my hard earned savings dwindle to nothing every time my car payment was due. I don't know why I would even feel bad asking him for money. Perhaps it was the fact that he should have been providing for me?! Afterall I did change MY WHOLE LIFE to move to NY to be with him.

Well, I was smart enough to move out(kind of late) but not smart enough to dump him right away. I let him and his crap continue for many more months. ACTUALLY, I let him continue to harass me for another 6 months after we broke up; He called/text/e-mailed/etc. WTF?! He even went as far as to call me from the Dominican Republic; he was on OUR vacation with a “friend.” Anyway, I consider it my fault; wasting 3 years and all. The lesson learned (because there is always one): Don’t settle…find real love with a provider!! Aaaaah :P

Monday, April 6, 2009

My So Called "Dad" Part II

Well, I still have my stomach ache...and WTF to these crazy MySpace messages:

Date: Apr 5, 2009 8:45 PM
Subject: re: getting in touch with me

I don't know why you haven't responed to me. After all I am your father. Love you and try to get in touch with me, not all my fault.

*Perhaps I should follow Aunt N's advice and tell him why I'm unhappy with his actions...Wow, that sounds so grown up (He sure isnt... after all, he is contacting me on MySpace!) What I really want to say (but i'll try not to) is F youuuuuuu!!!!!!

PS: IT IS ALL his fault. Child support costs alot when you're trying to afford beer. :) And I seriously dobut the "Love you" part...hmmmm

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My So Called "Dad"

I have this horrible stomachache. My sister says "did he message you on myspace?" SO, I check and this is what I find:

Subject: Re: Me being your father

I heard that your mother said I was dead. I would like to know if it is true, because I believe that I am your father. Let me know what's going on, still alive and well. If you would like to get in touch with me write me or call 386-684-9378.
Hopefully will talk with you soon, your so called DAD!!!!!!!!

He believes he's my father?!? OH MY GOD, I never knew (that's sarcasm) DUH! I never once recall my mom telling me he was dead. She always told the truth: He didn't want to be in our lives. In fact, I feel he is dead to me. My mom struggled as a single mother of two and never once did he pay child support. I don't even think she bothered to try to get any either. Perhaps it was better to move on from a cheater? Either way....where was he the last 25 years of my life? Where was he when I needed a dad? Where was he on all those fathers days when we gave gifts to our mom? Was he in the lives of all my half siblings? (aren't there like 7 of them?!?!) Anyway, my sister wonders why I can't or won't deal with this. Well, I just can't and I don't want to. I know people change but I have changed!! I'm all for giving 2ND, 3RD and even 4Th chances but I can't here. I love my mom and she is all I need. It always makes my heart happy when I see my friends being good dads because that is not what I had. I guess you never know if someone will be a good dad but I know my mom made the right decision here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Auto Glass or Die!

Oh joy…another boulder hit my windshield today. It made a nice split right next to the ridiculously large crack that I acquired from a previous boulder. I’m starting to think that employees of Safelite Auto Glass drive down the parkway and deposit hefty rocks for their own fun! Hey...that’s one way to keep business up. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and see just how much money I’ve given to Safelite…

1. $510: Back windshield (thanks random hoodlum who threw a rock)
2. $230: Passenger side window (thanks juvenile delinquent who used a crowbar)
3. $65: Front windshield repair (previous boulder)
4. $400: Future windshield replacement

I’m not a math whiz but that’s $805 of my hard earned money with a possible $400 more in the near future. I feel numb over this glass issue because I REALLY love my money! I can tell you one thing: Safelite Auto Glass is definitely recession-proof! Perhaps I should quit my journalism dream and work in auto glass repair? Well, I don’t enjoy getting dirty or working in the cold…So,that’s probably out. My last option: I don’t gamble(once again..I love my money!) but I’m thinking of trying to win some cash in Vegas! 4/22/09…Wish me luck!