Art Mendel knows first hand the despair facing baby boomers who have been laid off during the economic downturn and unable to find work. The former purchasing and supply chain manager has been unemployed since February of 2010, and was struck by how many others in the 50-70 age range were in the same boat.
So Mendel, who participates in the Creative Transitions for Seniors program at Edmonds’ South County Senior Center, had an inspiration. What if he contacted community leaders, elected officials and other local, regional and state “influential people,” with the goal of providing networking opportunities for out-of-work baby boomers in South Snohomish County?
That’s exactly the mission of Senior Center’s Jobs for Baby Boomers group, which has begun working with leaders to “identify targeted businesses that we want to communicate with,” Mendel said. The ideal business is small- to medium-sized, with 10 to 100 employees, and “all we are asking is that people get an interview,” Mendel said. “We are not asking for companies to hire them.”
While the effort is coordinated by volunteers, Mendel figures the program could use some seed money down the road, mostly to pay for some new computers for the Senior Center and services like resume writing, and also to advertise the program once it’s up and running. As a result, he’s begun applying for grants from foundations and community-based organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. The goal is to have business contacts and funding in place prior to publicizing the effort to boomers who are looking for work.
“Our first steps are to get contacts and seed money,” Mendel said. “We want to make sure we have business contacts and some money before we reach this net out to capture seniors in south Snohomish County.
He figures the response to such an effort could be significant. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, baby boomers represent 25 percent of Washington state’s 4 million residents, and have an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate for 30-year-olds is 6 percent, Mendel said.
“People are in despair at being unemployed,” Mendel said. “Many are at risk of losing their housing, they are in debt with mortgages and credit cards. We can’t expect the federal government to do much to help, so this is a grassroots way to make a difference.”
Seniors interested in learning more about the Creative Transitions group are invited to the meetings, held every other week on Fridays. The next meeting is this Friday, March 4. The Jobs for Baby Boomers group meets on alternate Fridays, so its next meeting will be March 11. To learn more, you can leave a message for Mendel by calling the Senior Center administrator’s office at 425-774-5555.