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Job hunting. Somehow this phrase strikes fear in the hearts of most of us. Finding work is hard work.

There are many reasons to be looking for work. Some have just graduated from high school or college. Others have been part of company downsizing. Some have lost their jobs due to their own poor decisions or behaviors. Divorce, death or illness of a family member, and changes in life circumstances can put someone in the job market. Job seekers come in all ages and stages of life, male and female, with various educational and confidence levels.

At The River Center’s Employment Resource Center, our Employment Specialist Donna Brand regularly serves individuals at no charge who are facing challenging questions: “What can I do for work? Who will employ me?” One individual told her, “I feel so knocked down that I am not sure I can get up.” Another commented, “I’ve been feeling so ‘trapped’ by economic circumstances, my age, my hodge-podge work history, and not really knowing what type of work might be ideal for me.” An individual who had been laid off spent an hour with Donna crying over the loss of her 30-year job and the question marks filling her future.

Currently our community is dealing with the temporary layoffs of 248 part-time employees at the Rindge Market Basket. How does the loss of a job affect people? The loss of a job is mourned, particularly if you love your work. You grieve the loss of your purpose each morning and the loss of daily contacts with co-workers, many of whom are friends. You grieve the loss of your paycheck. You have experienced rejection, which is often absorbed personally, even though the layoff was a corporate decision and not directed at you personally. You feel vulnerable and question your competence. Who will hire you? What can you do? Will you ever find a job that gives meaning and purpose to your work life?

The River Center held a Job Readiness Skills Workshop at the Rindge Market Basket on Aug. 20 to offer support and useful information for the job search. Participants had an opportunity to sign up for one-on-one appointments with our employment specialist to receive individualized assistance with their resumes, the application process, using the Internet for the job search and to get answers for their questions about the next steps.

Why does the River Center have an Employment Resource Center? Because sometimes life has sideswiped you. You need a job, your bank account is at rock bottom, your car needs work, your bills are stacking up, and all you can do is stare into space. You don’t know what to do next. Sometimes you just need to sit with someone who can ask a few questions and start you thinking about logical, doable next steps. You need resources that are close by, something in your community.

We have a track record of success stories. Many come back and tell us about their new job. One person told us that they came to the River Center after having been laid off. They were at an all-time low. They credit the help they received at the River Center with the fact that now they have the best job they have ever had. Another had a similar story. She ran into me at the grocery store and told me how grateful she was for the help she received through our Employment Resource Center. She loves the job she has now. This came via email: “Thank you especially for helping me keep my chin up.” A woman told us she was over 50 and was thankful for her first-ever resume. Another confessed that she was a displaced housewife and the River Center helped her get back into the workforce. She is now giving back to her community. These individuals are now full of hope and optimism. Many are now giving back through their time and their finances to the community that supported them when they needed it.

I am so pleased and grateful that the local chapter of 100+ Women Who Care chose the River Center’s Employment Resource Center as the recipient of their July donations. Thank you. Wew are honored and will continue to do the work you have supported us to do — practical job search skills for those facing this challenging time in their lives. We are in the business of changing lives. If you would like to support your community in a way that positively changes lives, we welcome your support. Go to www.rivercenter.us and click on “Donate Now” or send your check to the address below.

The job search can be a lonely journey. You don’t have to figure this out by yourself. If you or someone you know needs help with the job search, please contact The River Center: A Family and Community Resource Center at 46 Concord St. in Peterborough, 924-6800, or donna@rivercenter.us.

Margaret Nelson is the executive director of The River Center. Reach her at mnelson@rivercenter.us or 924-6800.

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