Rich Zatulove has been unemployed for a year, but he says he is revived and more hopeful than ever because of Cooperative Christian Ministry's new weekly networking group.
Network CCM meets from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kannapolis. CCM's executive director Ed Hosack leads the sessions and plans to host them indefinitely.
Hosack spent 22 years in upper management at Fieldcrest-Cannon and then Pillowtex mills. On July 30, 2003, Pillowtex closed and Hosack had to tell 1,665 people in his division that they all lost their jobs.
Five months later, he began to create his own nonprofit, Lifebuilder Industries, which provides basic computer training. About a year later, he joined CCM.
Hosack said he's interviewed hundreds of people, and his former management experience helps him provide insights into the hiring process and how a hiring manager looks at a resume.
"I will share a lot of my story with them, and I may describe some of the things I was feeling then that they're feeling now," he said.
But the benefits of the group extend beyond the job-search tools, words of encouragement and networking.
"Some of these folks will blossom just because they have something to believe in," said Hosack. "The activity, the purpose, the structure, it just wakes them up, and they return to the level of performance they were at before they lost their job. Just the activity itself re-engages them to do what they've always known how to do. They just really needed something to start their engine and stir the pot, and that's what this does."
Zatulove, a 61-year-old from Kannapolis, is one of Network CCM's first participants. The former small-business owner said he has an associate's degree in accounting and a bachelor's in management. He said he excels in customer service, but no job is out of the question. He has sent out at least 100 resumes and said his age has been a big obstacle.
"Anything that I could think of, where I had any kind of background, I sent a resume," he said.
Zatulove was working as a salesperson in Charlotte for six years before he was laid off and moved to Kannapolis. He said he has never been out of work for more than a week. But times are different now.
"I came (to Network CCM) because I was desolate," he said. "It's been over a year, and nothing. Not a call back. No one would talk to me. I'd go to job fairs. I'd go to open cattle calls, and nothing."
Throughout his career, he said, he developed a 30-second sales technique but never thought of applying it to the job search.
"That first 30 seconds, you either capture their attention or it's goodbye," he said. "But I hadn't thought of that in the respect of selling myself."
Cindy Barnhardt, 50, of Kannapolis worked for Kannapolis City Schools as a first-grade teacher's assistant at Forest Park Elementary. She said she lost her job as a result of recent state budget cuts. Hosack is her Sunday school teacher, and she's known him since 1987.
"I know what Ed has gone through," she said. "After the mill shut down, he helped people focus their own lives. I realized, if he did that, I knew I could come here and be helped. He's been through it and walked the walk."
Hosack said people who become unemployed are affected emotionally, spiritually and physically, so it's crucial that they maintain structure, stay active and even volunteer. They also need to include time for family, recreation and education.
"When you're working, you're life is structured for you and you just have to work within it," said Hosack. "But when you're unemployed, immediately all of your structure is gone. Then you have to create your own."