Senior Staff Writer
For Heather Wright and her fiancé, Willie J. Carter, applying for a job through the Goodwill Career Center on Wednesday was like taking a step toward a marriage ceremony.
Wright and Carter are postponing their wedding until they feel financially secure enough to move out on their own and then start a family. Both are unemployed. Both live with her father in Petersburg. Both went to Marshall County High School.
The Goodwill's job fair was conducted for Heartfelt Home Accents, the latest acquisition of Christian Brands, the Phoenix, Ariz.-based company that has several other businesses in the I-65 Commerce Park just west of Lewisburg. Wright and Carter were among hundreds of job applicants who lined up for work.
In October: 83 prospective employees filled out applications; 53 were interviewed; and nine were hired.
Wright graduated from MCHS in 2009, "and I've been looking for work ever since then," she said, wearing a metal bead chain with a silver dog tag that proclaims her love for Carter, forever.
As for their wedding date: "If not this year, next year," she said. "We're waiting until we have jobs so we can get on our feet and move out of my Dad's house.
"My parents like him (Carter,)" she said.
Carter's "looking into joining the National Guard," he said.
Asked if his parents are especially enamored with Wright and her parents for taking him in, Carter explains: his mother passed when he was three; his aunt raised him until he was 11 when she didn't want him anymore; and he subsequently lived in a foster home.
"I never knew my father," Carter said openly agreeing to publication of what his friends already know. Wright helped him get back in school to get his diploma.
America's weak economy is why they're postponing their wedding.
"I don't want to start a family and not be able to take care of them," she said.
Wright has applied for work at more than a dozen places in Lewisburg. "This is the first interview," she said.
Customer service, packing, shipping and receiving work are the positions she noted as available at Heartfelt Home Accents, a business that sells home décor items such as wall hangings with a religious aspect of the display. Work would be Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. with some Saturday work.
"I'm just hoping for the best outcome," Carter said. "I really want a job."
As Wright and Carter finished their comments, others in line were asked if they'd like to talk about employment.
"If the INS would do its job, we'd all have work," Doyce Mitchell, 52, of Palmetto said.
"It's ICE," Patricia Cozart of Lewisburg interjected to make the distinction between the old Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Border patrol jobs are open in that department, according to its Web site.
"I don't care what you call them... if they'd do their job," Mitchell said.
He's been unemployed for eight years, largely because he suffered "radiation poisoning," he said. "They don't want to hire you when you're on SSI."
Meanwhile, Cozart, 35, of Second Avenue said she's been unemployed for two years. She's worked at Teledyne and as a caregiver. She's a single mother, she said.
Viola Patterson, 31, is originally from Memphis and now lives on Franklin Street. She wants to work in shipping and receiving, customer service, "anything, really." Her last job was with FedEx. Now, she details cars and trucks for cash.
Kimberly Primeau, 35, of Lewisburg offered an observation about the line of applicants.
"I'd say every person here is English-speaking and a local, natural-born citizen," Primeau said. "Meanwhile, our factories employ a lot of people who are not U.S. citizens."
Molly Fortune, 35, laughed a little when realizing the irony between her name and standing in line for a job. She's unemployed and is willing to do any of he work open at Heartfelt Home Accents. She's married with two children. Her husband makes plastic wrap at Berry Plastics in Lewisburg's Industrial Park.
Gary Easterwood, 60, of Apple Street is unemployed. He retired with a pension after working 25 years with Delta Airlines where he earned $20 an hour.
"My wife is ill and on disability," Easterwood said. "But that does not pay enough for all her medicine."
His pension covers their other living expenses. He agreed that he's looking for work keep his wife alive.
Goodwill Career Solutions office had three people interviewing applicants instead of the one person who'd be doing that job 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. The three were completing about 40 interviews an hour.
Eighty people were counted in the line at about 9:15 a.m.