Full Circle

By: Danni R. Eickenhorst, Midland Division

Marlene Brugere is finally back to work after more than three years of unemployment, following her layoff from Western Union in 2008.

“When I was first laid off,” recalls Brugere, “the interviews I had went well, and I would go home thinking ‘I got this one,’ but I’d never hear back from the employers. When the economy went belly up a few months later, the search became even harder. Suddenly, there were way more applicants than there were jobs…. I saw jobs that I was qualified for drop in pay steadily. Every 6 months, the jobs I was looking at would drop two dollars per hour and in time, I had to start considering jobs at minimum wage.”

Marlene and her son were given advance notice of their impending job losses, chose to stay at Western Union through the end of their term to take advantage of the various incentives offered by their employer for staying through until the transition was made. Given their previous job search experiences, Brugere and her son thought they would have significant enough savings to survive until they were able to find new employment.

“We prepared for a storm,” she says, “but not a hurricane.”

As the economy continued to worsen, so too did Marlene’s job prospects. “I went from September of 2010 to the summer of 2011 without getting a return call from any employer.”

In time, Marlene found that she had needs that her severance package and savings were unable to meet, and she reached out to the Salvation Army’s Gateway Worship and Community Center in South St. Louis. “When you’re in a situation like this for the first time, it’s scary to go in and ask for help. You feel like a bit of a loser, but the people I interacted with were helpful and supportive. They treated me with respect.”

As Marlene worked with social worker Mary Justvig to address her needs, she found that The Salvation Army would be able to assist her with both food and utility assistance. “Mary was able to assist me in paying for utilities. That first day, she also gave me groceries to take home also.”

In 2009, Marlene received a notice of impending disconnection from the gas company, and returned to The Salvation Army once more for help. “Mary was able to pay a portion of my balance due, and after that was arranged, I was able to make payment arrangements for the remaining balance. With that assistance, we were able to stretch what funds we had just a little bit longer. When you’re in a crisis like this, and you don’t know when it might end, it is pretty scary.”

The end of her saga finally came in September, when Marlene was offered a customer service job at the local office of a global corporation. “I feel like I won the lottery,” she says, “to have a job with potential, working for a company that can offer stability, I’m so thankful.”

Upon getting her first paycheck, Marlene vowed to give back to those who helped her. “When you go through a crisis like this, you wonder why God would let you go through something like this and it can become a crisis of faith, but organizations like The Salvation Army make the suffering bearable, showing God’s love in their work. The people I dealt with were supportive, encouraging and caring and I can’t say enough about what their help did for me.”

Upon receiving her first paycheck in September, Marlene returned to the Gateway Citadel once more, for what she hoped would be her final appointment with Mary. She brought a thank you card and a cash donation for The Salvation. “I know there are people less fortunate that are still working, and I  also knew that The Salvation Army would know who to give my donation to.”

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