CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - What it's like surviving unemployment in today's tough job market? It's no secret our area has been rocked with layoffs and business closures.
How are those dislocated workers weathering the storm, and is there enough help out there to pull those folks through this difficult time?
Karen Smith of Jackson lost her job when the Thorngate factory in Cape Girardeau closed its doors in February.
"I'd been there for 36 years, ever since they opened up," she said.
Smith says the layoffs came as no big surprise.
"The last five years we could tell," said Smith.
Even so, when they closed the doors she was devasted as retirement seemed so close.
"I'll be 64 in May, so I had a little over a year," said Smith.
For the past couple of months, Karen has spent a lot of time filling out paperwork.
She immediately filed for unemployment through the Career Center in Cape Girardeau, and frequently checks for job openings.
She's also working with a company called MERS/Goodwill.
"There's no cost. All of our services are free of charge," said Savannah Gibbar with MERS/Goodwill.
Savannah Gibbar is a case worker who helps people like Karen Smith get back on their feet.
"It has been a little busier with the amount of layoffs going on in our area," Gibbar said.
Karen Smith is opting to go back to school even though she hasn't stepped foot in a classroom since the 1960s.
"I think a lot of people have gotten out and found right now that it's tough to find a job," said Gibbar. "So, they think 'I should probably go back and get some training.'"
Karen Smith's former Thorngate co-worker Monett Kerr will also soon be hitting the books.
"I worked at Thorngate for about 10 days short of 24 years," said Monett Kerr.
She too thought she would retire from the company.
"I really did think that would be a place I would be for the rest of my life," said Kerr.
Kerr has collected one unemployment check. She's currently working a temporary job as she waits for school to start.
"I definitely need to go back to school and get more training in order to be able to get the kind of pay I was used to getting," said Kerr. "It's been 25 years since I've been to school, actually I'm looking forward to it."
Monett Kerr and Karen Smith will both collect unemployment while at school, starting later this year, and federal dollars will pay for that training.
"I was shocked that we'd get that much help," said Smith.
"It's a big weight off my shoulders to know I'll have that and it'll be paid for," said Kerr.
"I've got clients at truck driving school in Malden or Springfield, some people at SEMO, and places like the Career and Technology Center," said Gibbar.
Both women know there are many challenges still ahead.
"There are so many people unemployed right now, I know a lot of them are younger than I am and have more skills in computers that what I have," said Smith.
"Even though that part of my life has been closed off, I really enjoyed working there (Thorngate), but I've been given an opportunity to try something different and I'm going to make the most of it," said Kerr.
Karen Smith is going to beef up her computer skills at the vocational center in Cape Girardeau.
Monett Kerr plans to get her associates degree in business managment and computers from Metro Business College.