LABOR DAY: Returning to full-time employment
Lee County resident Laura Maness is not just celebrating her son's wedding this Labor Day, she's marking her return to work.
After more than a year and a half of unemployment, Maness began her new position as a plant manager at Trion Inc. last Monday.
"You were competing against the best of the best because manufacturing was hit so hard," Maness said of searching for work. "It's a difficult environment and you could have one position open and 600 applicants."
During the 19 months she was unemployed, Maness said she went through her entire savings and her friends and family became an invaluable resource. Several members of her family were also let go from their jobs and, despite having job opportunities in other parts of the country, Maness said she wanted to stay in her community.
"Your friends are your support base," she said. "Your support line. Your family, faith and community can rally to become that support group. Because, believe it or not, there are organizations that are willing to help you find a job."
Sanford Jobseekers, a weekly meeting for local residents seeking employment, was one of the groups Maness joined during her unemployment stint.
"People need to feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Maness said. "And thank God for my faith. I knew he would put me where I needed to be."
Jobseekers helped Maness keep her sanity, she said, and kept her in touch with others who were facing a similar situation.
Sanford resident Tammy Swann, who also attended the weekly Jobseekers meetings, recently became a full-time employee at SAS Institute in Cary after more than a year of working part-time.
Swann said she didn't have insurance and there was no money for extras. "Everything I made had to go toward paying bills. Figuring out what I am going to pay and what I was not going to pay," she said. "It was a very stressful time. You couldn't even get a job at Walmart. There was just an influx of people looking for work."
This Labor Day weekend Swann is attending a family reunion along with her son, Brandon, and said she's relieved to have a steady income.
Swann now has insurance and said she's glad she doesn't have to wait in long lines at the unemployment office or fill out forms to get benefits. There are still many others, she said, who need help and are not as fortunate.
"It is a blessing to now be employed full time," she said. "I feel very honored to have the opportunity when there are still so many that do not. I county it as a blessing."
Labor Day, a national holiday which celebrates the economic and cultural impact of workers in the community, is Monday.